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Full text of "The land of Lorne; or : a poet's adventures in the Scottish Hebrides, including the cruise of the "Tern" to the Outer Hebrides"

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" A LAND of rainbows spanning glens wliose walls. 
Rock-built, are hung with many-colored mists ; 
Of far-stretched meres, whose salt flood never rests- 
Of tuneful caves and playful waterfalls — 
Of mountains varying momently their crests. 
Proud be this land ! whose poorest huts are halls 
Where Fancy entertains becoming guests. 
While native song the heroic past recalls." 



A SMALL portion of the " Cruise of the Tern " has 
appeared in print before, though in a very imperfect 
shape ; all the rest of the present work is now pub- 
lished for the first time. The pictures of life and 
scenery, such as they are, speak for themselves, and 
appeal more or less to everybody ; but the narrative 
of the Tern's cruise may have a special interest for 
yachtsmen, as showing what a very small craft can 
do with proper management. The Tern, I believe, 
was the smallest craft of the kind that ever ventured 
round the point of Ardnamurchan, and thence to 
Ultima Thule, or the Outer Hebrides ; but there is 
no reason whatever why other tiny yachts should 


not follow Bilit, and venture out to the wilds. To 

any sportsman desirous of such an expedition, and 

able to stand rough accommodation and wild weather, 

I can promise glorious amusement, just faintly spiced 

with a delightful sense of danger, sometimes more 

fanciful than real, frequently much more real than 


K. B. 






The "White House on the Hill — The Land of Lome — First Impres- 
sions of Oban — The Celtic Workmen — Maclean, Mactavish, and 
Duncan of the Pipes — The Lords of Lome and their Descendants^ 
Battle between Bruce and John of Lome — Dunollie Castle — Glori- 
fication of Mist and Bain — An Autumn Afternoon — Old Castles — 
Dunstafihage, 17 



The Seasons — Cuckoos — Bummer Days — Autumn — Winter — Moor- 
land Lochs — The Fir Wood — The Moors and the Sea — Farm-houses 
and Ci'ofters" Huts— Traces of former Cultivation on the Hills — The 
Ruined Saeters — Graveyard at Dunstafifnage — The Island of Inis- 
haJl, . 40 





Loch Awe and its Ancient Legend— Summer Days on the Lake — The 
Legend of Fraoch Elian— Kilchurn Castle— Effects of Moonhght 
and of Storm— View from Glenara— The Pools of Cladich— Duncan 
Ban of the Songs— His Coire Cheathaich— His Mairi Ban Og, and 
Last Adieu to the Hills— Songs of the Cliildren of the Mist — The 
Pass of Awe — The Ascent of Ben Cruachan, 53 



Grouse and Black-gamo Shooting — A September Day on the Moors — 
The Grouso-Shooter—Peat-Bogs— Arrival of Snipe and Woodcock- 
Mountain Lochs and other Haunts of Wild Fowl— False and True 
Sportsmen, . • 79 



The Ocean Queen, or Coffin — Shon Macnab's Race with "the Barber" 
— Lachlan FinUy — From Crinan to the Dorus Mhor— Hebridcan 
Tides— Scarba — The Gulf of Corrj'vreckan — Its Horrors and Perils 
— Luing and the Small Isles — The Open Firth — Easdale and its 
Quarriers — Tombs at the Door — Miseries of Calm — Gylon Castle and 
the Island of Kerrera— King Haco's Invasion of the Hebrides— A 
Puff from the Southeast — The Island of Mull — Johnson and Bos- 
well in the Hebrides- ARun to Tobermorj- — Loch Sunart— A Rainy 
Day— Ardtoraish Castle— Anchored between Wind and Tide — 
Night on the Firth— Troubles of Darkness— Farewell to the Ocean 
Queen — Arrival of the Tern 89 





Tbo Tern Afloat— Off Ardnamm-chan — First Glimpses of the Isles — 
The Cuchullin Hills— General Eeflections— Flashing Forward— The 
Partv on Board— The Scaur of Eig— Rum— Birds of the Ocean- 
Muck— Sunset on the Waters— Loch Scrcsort, Rum— The Gaelic 
Skipper— The Widow— A Climb among the Peaks— View of the 
Western Ocean from Rum — The Tei'ii. Weighing Anchor — Kilmory 
Bay— First View of Cauua — At Anchor, 121 



The Laird of Canna— His Kingly Power— Prosperity of the State — 
The Island— The Old Tower— Canna in Storm and in Cahn— The 
Milking— Twilight— A Poem by David Gray— Hauntg of the Ocean 
Birds— Whispers from the Sea— The Canna People— The Quiet Life 
— The Graveyard on the Hill-side, 139 

EiKADH OF Canna, ' ... 155 







Gloomy Prophecies — Terrors of tlic Jlincli — The Vildng — Hamish 
Shaw, the Pilot — Leaving Canna Harbor — Pictures of Skye and 
the Cnchiillins — Remarks on Sir Walter Scott and his Poems — 
Afloat on the Minch — the I'ar-olf Isles — Twilight — Ilamish Shaw 
at the Helm — Summer Night — Talk about Ghosts and Supersti- 
tions—The Evil Eye— The Death-Cry— Wind Rising— Wind and 
Mist — Water Snakes — Midnight — The Strange Ship — Peep o' Day — 
The Red Buoy — Anchorage in Loch Boisdale, . ... 189 



Loch Boisdale — The Tern at Anchor — The Inn and the Population — 
Rain — Boisdale in the Herring Season — Fishing-boats and Camps 
— A Niglit in a West-Country Smack— Herring-gutters — Habits of 
East-Country Fishermen, 210 

CON-JENl-S. 13 



First GlimpH«> — Ttie Uista and Benbccula— Tlieir Miserable Aspects 

— Hamish Bhaw — Solemnity of the People — Brighter Glimpses— 
The Western Coast of the Island — Winter Storm — The Sound of 
Harris — The Norwegian Skipper — The Fjords — Kelp-burners — View 
fi'om Kenneth Hill, Loch Boisdalc — A Sunset — The Lagoons — 
Characteristics of the People — Civilized and Uncivilized — Miserable 
Dwellings — Comfortable Attire — Their Superstitions and Deep Spir- 
itual Life, 229 



The Sportsmen and their Dogs — The Hunter's Badge — ^The Weap- 
ons — Shooting in the Fjords — Eiders, Cormorants, Curlews — Duck- 
shooting near Loch Boisdale — The Tbvi at Anchor in Loch lluport 
— Stai-vation — Wild-Goose Shooting on Loch Bee — The Shepherd's 
Gilts — Goose Shooting on Loch Phlogibeg — The Melancholy Loch 
— Breeding Places of the Wild Fowl — Eain-Storm—" Bonnie Kil- 
tncay" — Short Rations — The Passing Ship — Red Door, Salmon, and 
Eagles — Corbies and Ravens — Seal Shooting in the Maddy Fjords 
— lit^tlection on Wild Sports in General, 25^ 





Effects of Cruising on Yacht and Yoyagers— Recrossiug the Minch— 
Northwest Coast of Skye— Becalmed off Loch Snizort— Midnight — 
Lights of Heaven and Ocean — Dawn— Columns of the North Coast 
— The Quirang — Scenery of the Northeast Coast — The Stonn — 
Portree Harbor, 291 












Sconser and Shgachan — Party and Guide — Dawn on the Cuchulhns — 
Scuir-na-Gilleau— A Rhapsody on Geology— Fire and Ico— The 
Path along the Glen— Hart-o'-Corry— Ben Blaven— A Monologue 
on Ossian — Schneider and the Red Deer — First Glimpse of the 
"Corryofthe Water"— LochanDhu 327 





Tho Lone Water — The Region of Twiliglit — Blocs Pe?-c/ies— Hamish 
Shaw's Views — The Cavo of the Ghost — Tho Dunvegan Pilot's 
Story— Echoes, Mists and Shadows— Squalls in Loch Scavaig- 
A Highlander's Ideas of Beauty — Camping out in tho Corry — A 
Stormy Dawn— The Fishermen and the Strange Harbor — Loch 
Scavaig — Tho Spar Cave — Camasunary, 354 


Epilogue; The "Tebn's" Lasx Fliohx, 382 




The Wliite House on the Hill — The Land of Lome — First Impressions of 
Oban — The Celtic Workmen — Maclean, Mactavish, and Duncan of the 
Pipes — The Lords of Lome and their Descondants — Battle between 
Briico and John of Lome — Dunollie Castle — Glorification of Mist and 
Rain — An Autumn Afternoon — Old Castles — Dunstaffnage. 

When the Wanderer (as the writer purposes to call 
himself in these pages, in order to get rid of the perk- 
ish and impertinent iirst person singular) first came 
to dwell in Lome, and roamed, as is his wont, up hill 
and down dale from dawn to sunset, he soon grew 
weary of a landscape which seemed tame and color- 
less, of hills that, with one or two magnificent excep- 
tions, seemed cold and unpicturesque. It was the 
springtime, moreover, and such a springtime ! Day 
after day the rain descended, sometimes in a dreary 
" smurr," at others in a moaning torrent, and when the 
clouds did part, the sun looked through with a dismal 
and fitful stare, like a face swollen with weeping. 
The conies were frisking everywhere, fancying it al- 
ways twilight. The mountain loch overflowed its 
banks, while far beneath the surface the buds of the 



yellow lily were wildly struggliniij upward, and the 
overfed burns roared day and night. Wherever one 
went, the fanner scowled, and the gamekeeper shook 
his head. Lome seemed as weary as the Uists, loeary 
but not eerie^ and so without f^iscination. In a kind 
of dovecote perched on a hill, far from human habita- 
tion, the Wanderer dwelt and watched, while the 
gloomy gillie came and went, and the dogs howled 
from the rain-drenched kennel. The weasel bred at 
the very door, in some obscure corner of a drain, and 
the young weasels used to come fearlessly out on 
Sunday morning and play in the rain. Two hundred 
yards above the house was a mountain tarn, on the 
shores of which a desolate couple of teal were trying 
hard to hatch a brood ; and all around the miserable 
grouse and grayhens were sitting like stones, drenched 
on their eggs, hoping against hope. In the far dis- 
tance, over a dreary sweep of marshes and pools, lay 
the little town of Oban, looking, when the mists 
cleared away a little, exactly like the wood-cuts of the 
Gity of Destruction in popular editions of the " Pil- 
grim's Progress." Now and then, too, the figure of a 
certain genial Edinburgh Professor, with long white 
hair and flowing plaid, might be seen toiling upward 
to Doubting Castle, exactly like Christian on his pil- 
grimage, but carrying, instead of a bundle on his 
back, the whole of Homer's hexameters in his brain, 
set to such popular tunes as "John Brown," and " Are 
ye sleepin', Maggie?" Few others had courage to 
climb so high, in weather so inclement ; and, won- 
derful to add, the professor did not in the least share 
the new-comer's melancholy, but roundly vowed in 


good Doric that there was no sweeter spot in all the 
world than tlie " bonnie land of Lome." 

The AVanderer was for a time skeptical ; but, as 
the days lengthened, and his eyes accommodated 
themselves to the new prospect, his skepticism 
changed into faith, his faith into enthusiasm, his 
enthusiasm into perfect love and passionate enjoy- 

The truth is, that Lome, even in the summer sea- 
son, does not captivate at first sight, does not galvanize 
the senses with beauty and brightly stimulate the 
imagination. Glencoe lies beyond it, and Morven 
just skirts it, and the only great mountain is Crua- 
clian. There is no portion of the landscape which 
may be described as " grand," in the same sense that 
Glen Sligachan and Glencoe are grand ; no sheet of 
water solemnly beautiful as Corruisk ; no strange 
laajoons like those of the sea-surrounded Uist and 
Benbecula ; for Lome is fair and gentle, a green pas- 
toral land, where the sheep bleat from a thousand 
hills, and the gray homestead stands in the midst of 
its own green fields, and the snug macadamized roads 
ramify in all directions to and from the tiny capital 
on the seaside, with the country carts bearing produce, 
the drouthy farmer trotting home at all hours on his 
sure-footed nag, and the stage-coach, swift and gay, 
wakening up the echoes in summer-time with the 
guard's cheery horn. There is greenness everywhere, 
even where the scenery is most wild — fine slopes ot 
pasture alternating with the heather ; and, though 
want and squalor and uncleanness are to be found 
here, as in all other parts of the Highlands, comfort- 



able houses abound. Standing on one of tlie high 
hills above Oban, you see unfolded before you, as in 
a map, the whole of Lome proper, with Ben Crua- 
chan in the far distance, closing the scene to the east- 
ward, towering over the whole prospect in supreme 
height and beauty, and cutting the gray sky with his 
two red and rocky cones. At his feet, but invisible 
to you, sleeps Loch Awe, a mighty fresh-water lake, 
communicating, through a turbulent river, with the 
sea. Looking northward, taking the beautifully- 
wooded promontory of Dunollie for a foreground, you 
behold the great firth of Lome, with the green flat 
island of Lismore extended at the feet of the moun- 
tain region of JMorven, and the waters creeping in- 
land, southward of the Glencoe range, to forai, first, 
the long, narrow arm of Loch Etive, which stretches 
many miles inland close past the base of Cruachan ; 
and, second, the winding basin of Loch Crei*an, which 
separates Lome from Glencoe. Yonder, to the west, 
straight across the firth, lies Mull, separated from 
Morven by its gloomy Sound. Southward, the view 
is closed by a range of unshapely hills, very green in 
color and unpicturosque in form, at the feet of which, 
but invisible, is Loch Feochan, another arm of the 
sea, and beyond the mouth of this loch stretches the 
seaboard, with numberless outlying islets, as far as 
the lightliouse of Easdale and the island of Scar- 
ba. Between the landmarks thus slightly indicated 
stretches the district of Lome, some forty miles in 
length and fifteen in breadth; and, seen in clear, 
brifht weather, free from the shadow of the rain-cloud, 
its innumerable green slopes and cultivated hollows 


oetoken at a glance its peaceful character. Tliere is, 
we repeat, greenness everywhere, save on the tops of 
the highest hills — greenness in the valleys and on the 
hillsides — greenness of emerald brightness on the 
edges of the sea — greenness on the misty marshes. 
The purple heather is plentiful, too, its deep tints 
glorifying the scene from its pastoral monotony, ])ut 
seldom tyrannizing over the landscape. Abundant, 
also, are the signs of temporal prosperity — the wreaths 
of smoke arising everywhere from humble dwellings ; 
the sheep and cattle crying on the hills ; the fishing- 
boats and trading- vessels scattered on the firth ; the 
flocks of cattle and horses being driven on set days to 
the grass-market at Oban. 

This same town of Oban, prettily situated along 
the skirts of a pleasant bay, and boasting a resident 
population of some two thousand inhabitants, has been 
fitly enough designated the " key of the Highlands ;" 
since, from its quaint quay, composed of the hulk of 
an old wreck, the splendid fleet of Highland steamers 
start for all parts of the western coast and adjacent 
islands. In summer-time a few visitors occupy the 
neat villas which ornament the western slopes above 
the town, and innumerable tourists, ever coming and 
going to the shai-p ringing of the steamboat bell, lend 
quite a festive appearance to the little main street. 
As a tourist, the Wanderer first made the acquaint- 
ance of Oban and its people, and resided among 
them for some weeks, during which time there was a 
general conspiracy on the part of everybody to reduce 
him to bankruptcy; extortionate boatmen, grasping 
small tradesmen, greedy car-drivel's, all regarding 



him as a lawful victim. He was lonely, and the 
gentle people toolv him in ; he was helpless, and they 
did for him ; until at last he fled, vowing never to 
visit the place again. Fate, stronger than human 
will, interposed, and he became the tenant of the 
White House on the Hill. He arrived in the fallow 
season, before the swift boats begin to bring their 
stock of festive travelers, and found Oban plunged in 
funereal gloom — the tradesmen melancholy, the boat- 
men sad and unsuspicious, the hotel-waiters depressed 
and servile, instead of brisk and patronizing. The 
grand waiter at the Great Western Hotel, one whom 
to see was to reverence, whose faintest smile was an 
honor, and who conferred a life-long obligation when 
he condescended to pour out your champagne, still 
lingered in the south, and the lesser waiters of the 
lesser hotels lingered afar with the great man. All 
was sad and weary, and, at first, all looks were cold. 
But speedily the Wanderer discovered that the peo- 
ple of Oban regarded him with grateful affection. 
He was the firet man who, for no other reason than 
sheer love of silence and picturesqueness, had come to 
reside among them " out of the season." In a few 
weeks, he not only discovered that the extortioners 
of his former visit were no such harpies after all, but 
poor devils, anxious to get hay while the sun shone. 
He found that these same extortioners were the 
merest scum of the town, the veriest froth, under- 
neath which there existed the sediment of the real 
population, which, for many mysterious reasons, no 
mere tourist is ever suffered to behold. He found 
around him most of the Highland virtues — gentleness,. 



hospitality, spirituality. No hand was stretched out 
to rob him now. Wherever he went there was a kind 
word from the men, and a courtesy from the women. 
The poor pale faces brightened, and he saw the sweet 
spirit looking forth with that deep inner hunger which 
is ever marked on the Celtic physiognomy. Every 
day deepened his interest and increased his satisfac- 
tion, lie knew now that he had come to a place 
where life ran fresh, and simple, and, to a great ex- 
tent, unpolluted. 

Not to make the picture tender, let him add that 
he soon discovered for himself — what every one else 
discovers, sooner or later — that the majority of the 
town population was hopelessly lazy. There was no 
surplus energy anywhere, but there were some individ- 
uals who, for sheer unhesitating, imblushing, whole- 
sale indolence, were certainly unapproachable on this 
side of Jamaica. It so happened that the Wanderer 
wanted a new wing added to tlie White House, and 
it was arranged with a " contractor," one Angus 
Maclean, that it should be erected at a trifling ex- 
pense within three weeks. A week passed, during 
which Angus Maclean occupied himself in abstruse 
meditation, coming two or three times to the spot, 
dreamily chewing stalks of grass, and measuring im- 
aginary walls with a rule. Then, all of a sudden, one 
morning, a load of stones was deposited at the door, 
and the workmen arrived — ^men of all ages and all 
temperaments, from the clean, methodic mason to the 
wild, hirsute hodsman. In other parts of the world 
houses are built silently, not so in Lome ; the babble 
of Gaelic was incessant. The work crept on, surely 


if slowly, relieved by intervals of Gaelic melody and 
political debate, during which all labor ceased. An- 
gus Maclean came and went, and, of course, it was 
sometimes necessary to advise with him as to details ; 
and great was his delight whenever he could beguile 
the Wanderer into a discussion as to the shape of a 
window or the size of a door, for the conversation w;is 
sure to drift into general topics, such as the Irish 
Land question or the literature of the Highlands, and 
the laborers would suspend their toil and cluster 
round to listen while Angus ex])lained his " views." 
In a little more than a month, the masonry was com- 
pleted, and the carpenter's assistance necessary. A 
week passed, and no carpenter came. Summoned to 
council, Angus Maclean explained that the carpenter 
would be up " the first thing in the morning." Two 
days afterward, he did appear, and it was at once ap- 
parent that, compared with him, all the other inhabit- 
ants of Oban were models of human energy. With 
him came a lazy boy, with sleep-dust in his round 
blobs of eyes. The caqjenter's name was Donald 
Mactavish — " a fine man," as the contractor explained, 
" tho' he takes a drap." The first day, Donald Mac- 
tavish smoked half a dozen pipes, and sawed a board. 
The next day, he didn't appear — " it was that showery, 
and I was afraid of catching the cold ;" but the lazy 
boy came up, and went to sleep in the unfinished 
wing. The third day, Donald appeared at noon, 
looking very pale and shaky. Thus matters proceed- 
ed. Sometimes a fair day's work was secured, and 
Donald was so triumphant at his own energy that he 
disappeared the following morning altogether. Some 


times Donald was unwell; sometimes it was "o'er 
showery " Teai*s and entreaties made no impression 
on Mactavish, and he took his own time. Then the 
slater appeared, with a somewhat brisker stylo of 
workmanship. Finally, a moody plasterer strolled 
that way, and promised to whitewash the walls " when 
he came back frae Mull," whither he was going on 
business. To cut a long story short, the new wing to 
the White House was complete in three months, 
whereas the same number of hands miccht have fin- 
ished it with perfect ease in a fortnight. 

Thus far, we have given only the dark side of the 
picture. Turning to the bright side, we herewith re- 
cord our vow that, whenever we build again, we will 
seek the aid of those same workmen from Lome. Why, 
the Wanderer has all his life lived among wise men, 
or men who deemed themselves wise, among great 
book-makers, among brilliant minstrels, but for sheer 
unmitigated enjoyment, give him the talk of those 
Celts — ^flaming radicals every one of them, so radical, 
forsooth, as to have about equal belief in Mr. Glad- 
stone and Mr. Disraeli. They had their own notions 
of freedom, political and social. "Sell my vote?" 
quoth Angus ; " to be sure, I'd sell my vote !" And he 
would thereupon most fiercely expound his convic- 
tions, and give as good a reason for not voting at all 
as the best of those clever gentlemen who laugh at 
political representation. At heart, too, Angus was a 
Fenian, though not in the bad and bloodthirsty sense. 
Donald Mactavish, on the other hand, was of a gentle 
nature, inclined to acquiesce in all himian arrange- 
ment, 80 long as he got his pipe and his glass, and was 


not hurried al>out his work. With playful humor, he 
would " draw out" the fiery Angus for the Wanderer's 
benefit. Then the two would come suddenly to war 
about the relative merits of certain obscure Gaelic 
poets, and would rain quotations at each other until 
they grew hoarse. They had both the profoundest 
contempt for English literature and the English lan- 
guage, as compared with their beloved G-aelic. They 
were both full of old legends and quaint Highland 
stories. The workmen, too, were in their own way as 
interesting — ^fine natural bits of humanity, full of in- 
telligence and quiet affection Noteworthy among 
them was old Duncan Campbell, who had in his 
younger days been piper in a Highland regiment, and 
who now, advanced in years, worked hard all day as 
a hodsman, and nightly — clean, washed, and shaven — 
played to him.=;elf on the beloved pipes, till over- 
powered with sleep. Duncan was simply delicious. 
More than once he brought up the pipes and played 
on the hillsides, while the workmen danced. These 
pipes were more to him than bread and meat. As he 
played them, his face became glorified. Ilis skill was 
not great, and his tunes had a strange monotony 
about them, but they gave to his soul a joy passing 
the glory of battle or the love of women. lie was 
never too weary for them in the evening, though the 
day's work had been ever so hard and long. Great 
was his pride and joy that day, when the house was 
finished, and, \vith pipes playing and ribbons flying, 
he headed the gleeful workmen as they marched away 
to the town. 

From that day forward the White House on the 


Hill remained silent in the solitude. Though the 
fiumincr season came, and with it the stream of tour- 
ists and -visitors, the Wanderer abode undisturbed. 
Far off he saw tlie white gleam of the little town 
across the long stretch of field and marsh, but he sel- 
dom bent his footsteps thither, save when constrained 
by urgent business, ^N^evertheless, faces came and 
went, and bright scenic glimpses rose and passed, 
while day after day he found his love deepening for 
the Land of Lome. 

In a certain sense, the whole Hebrides are the Land 
of Lome, Skye as much so as Kerrera, Coll and Tiree 
and Kum as much as Appin and Awe, Loch Scavaig, and 
Loch Eishart as much so as Lochs Feochan and Etive. 
The family house of Lome began with a son of Somer- 
led, Thane of Argyll and Lord of the Isles, who worried 
and bullied the Scottish king, Malcolm, until slain in 
battlo at Renfrew. By a daughter of Olaus, King of 
Man, Somerled had two sons, Ronald and Dougall, the 
first of whom was the ancestor of the Lords of the 
Isles, or Macronalds^ and the second of whom be- 
queathed his surname to the Lords of Lome, or Mac- 
dougalls. Dougall got for his birthright certain main- 
land territories in Argyllshire, now known as the 
three districts of Lome, but his name and fame 
stretched far further and embraced many of the isles. 
He resided in the stronghold of Dunstaffnage, with 
all the power and more than the glory of a petty 
prince. Thenceforward, the Macdougalls of Lome 
Increased and multiplied. At the time when Ilaco 
invaded the west (12G3) they were great and prosper- 
ous, and fierce in forays against the Cailean Mor, or 


Knight of Loch Awe, from whom comes the ducal 
lioiise of Argyll. For year after year the Macdougall 
of Lome fought against the dominion of Bruce, wlio 
had sh\in the Ked Comyn, Lome's father-in-law, 
in the Dominican church at Dumfries; wherefore 
Bruce, when his power rose in Scotland, marched into 
Argyllshire to lay waste the country. John of Lome, 
son of the chieftain, was posted with his clansmen in 
the Pass of Awe, a wild and narrow pathway, passing 
on helow the verge of Ben Cruachan, and surrounded 
hy precipices to all appearance inaccessible. The 
military skill of Bruce, however, enabled him to ob- 
tain possession of the heights above, whence his 
archers discharged a fatal volley of arrows on the dis- 
comfited men of Argyll, who were routed with great 
slaughter — John, their leader, just managing to 
escape by means of his boats on the lake. After this 
victory, Bruce " harried " Argyllshire, and besieging 
Dunstaffnage Castle, on the west shore of Lome, re- 
duced it by fire and sword, and placed in it agamson 
and governor of his own. Alaster, the chieftain, at 
last 8uV)mitted, but John, still rebellious, escaped to 
England. When the wars between the Bruce and 
Baliol factions again broke out in the reign of David 
II., the Macdougalk, with their hereditary enmity to 
the house of Bruce, were again upon the losing side. 
I)avid II., and his successor, stripped them of the 
greater part of their territories, and in 1434 one Rob- 
ert Stuart was appointed to administer their lands 
under the title of Seneschal of Lome. In spite of all 
this terrible adversity, the Macdougal Is still continued 
to exist, oven to floiirish in a private way. They 


retained the Castle of Dunollie, witli the titles of 
chieftainship over the clan. But in the year 1715. 
the irrepressible blood burst forth again, and the Mac- 
dougall of the period, having joined the insurrection, 
found himself mulcted of his estate. Thirty years 
afterward, however, it was restored to the family, 
whom sad experience had rendered quiescent during 
the rebellion of that period. The present representa- 
tive, a quiet major in the army, eats the Queen's 
bread, and preserves the family glory in a modest, un- 
assuming way. He has a modern house and farm 
close to the ruins of Dunollie, the ancient stronghold 
of his race. 

These same ruins of Dunollie stand on the very 
point of the promontory to the northwest of Oban, 
and form one of the finest foregrounds possible for all 
the scenery of the Frith. There is no old castle in 
Scotland quite so beautifully situated. On days of 
glassy calm, every feature of it is mirrored in the sea, 
with browns and grays that ravish the artistic eye. 
There is not too much of it left ; just a wall or two, 
lichen-covered and finely broken. Seen from a dis- 
tance, it is always a perfect piece of color, iu fit keep- 
ing with the dim and doubtful sky; but in late 
autumn, when the woods of the promontory have all 
their glory — fir-trees of deep black green, intermixed 
with russet and golden birches — Dunollie is something 
to watch for hours and wonder at. The day is dark, 
but a strong silvern light is in the air, a light in 
which all the blue pliadows deepen ; while far off in 
the west, over green Kerrera, is one long streak of 
faint violet, above wliich gather strongly - defined 



clouds in a brooding slate-colored mass. On Biicli a 
day — and such days are numberless in the Highland 
autumn — the silvern light strikes strong on Dunoliie, 
bringing out every line and tint of the noble ruin, 
while the sea beneath, with the merest shadow of the 
cold, faint wind upon it, shifts its tints like a sword- 
blade in the light, from soft steel-gray to deep, slum- 
brous blue. It only wants Morven in the background, 
dimly purple with dark, plum-colored stains, and the 
swathes of white mist folded round the high peaks, to 
complete the perfect picture. 

The visitor to the west coast of Scotland is, doubt- 
less, often disappointed by the absenceof bright colors 
and brilliant contrasts, such as he has been accus- 
tomed to in Italy and in Switzerland, and he goes away 
too often with a malediction on the mist and the 
rain, and an under-murmur of contempt for Scottish 
scenery, such as poor Montalembert sadly expressed 
in his life of the Saint of lona. But what many 
chance visitors despise becomes to the living resident 
a constant source of joy. Those infinitely varied 
grays — those melting, melodious, dimmest of browns — 
those silvery gleams through the fine neutral tint of 
cloud ! One gets to like strong sunlight least ; it 
dwarfs the mountains so, and destroys the beautiful 
distance. Dark, dreamy days, with the clouds clear and 
high, and the wind hushed ; or wild days, mth the dark 
heavens blowing past like the rush of a sea, and the 
shadows driving like mad things over the long grass 
and the marshy pool ; or sad days of rain, with dim, 
pathetic glimpses of the white and weeping orb; or 
nights of the round moon, when the air throbs with 


strange electric liglit, and the hill is mirrored dark as 
ebony in the glittering sheet of the locli ; or nights of 
the Aurora and the lunar rainbow — on days and 
nijlhts like those is the Land of Lome beheld in its 
glory. Even during those superb sunsets, for which 
its coasts are famed — sunsets of fire divine, with all 
the tints of the prism — only west and east kindle to 
great brightness ; while the landscape between reflects 
the glorious light dimly and gently, interposiDg mists 
and vapors, with dreamy shadows of the hills. These 
bright moments are exceptional ; yet is it quite fair 
to say so when, a dozen times during the rainy day, 
the heart of the grayness bursts open, and the rain- 
bow issues forth in complete semi-circle, glittering in 
glorious evanescence, with its dim ghost fluttering 
faintly above it on the dark heavens ? 

" My heart leaps up when I behold 
A rainbow in the sky !" 

The Iris comes and goes, and is, indeed, like the sun- 
light, " a glorious birth " wherever it appears ; but for 
rainbows of all degrees of beauty, from the superb arch 
of delicately-defined hues that spans a complete land- 
scape for minutes together to the delicate, dying thing 
that flutters for a moment on the skirt of the storm- 
cloud, and dies to the sudden sob of the rain, the 
Wanderer knows no corner of the earth to equal 
Lome and the adjacent isles. 

Two qualities are necessary to the enjoyment of 
these things. The first quality is quiescence, or 
brooding-power — the patient faculty of waiting while 
images are impressing themselves upon you, of relin- 
quishing your energetic identity and becoming a sort 



of human tarn or mirror. If you want to be 
" shocked," galvanized, so to speak, you must go else- 
wliere, say to Chimborazo or the North Pole. The 
second quality necessary is (to be Hibernian) not al- 
together a quality, but the acquired conviction that 
rain is beautiful and mist poetical, and that to be wet 
through twice or thrice a day is not undesirable. In 
point of fact, for actual " downpours " of water, the 
Highlands are not much worse than the rest of Great 
Britain, but the changes are more sudden and incalcu- 
lable. To abide indoors on account of wet or lowering 
weather may do very well in Surrey, but it will not 
do in Lome ; for if you want to see the finest natural 
effects — if you want to get the best sport on land and 
water — if you want to do in Lome as Lome does — you 
must think no more of rain there tlian you do of dust 
in the city. Abolish waterproofs, which were invent- 
ed by the devil; away with umbrellas, which were 
devised for old women, and are only tolerable when 
Leech's pretty girls are smiling under them ; don a 
suit of thick tweed, sucb as any cotter weaves, cut a 
stick from the nearest blackthorn bush, and sally forth 
in all weathers. Let your boots be just easy enough 
to let the water " out " when it has managed to get 
" in," and you will be quite comfortable. Those wlio 
tell you that a damp coat and a wet shoe mean dan- 
ger to your health are only talking nonsense. Tight 
v/aterproof boots and macintoshes are more fatal 
things than cold and rani. 

Let it not be gathered from what we have said 
that the climate of Lome is bad, and the rain unceas- 
ing. On the contrary, there are, nearly every year, 


long intervals of dronght, glaring Biimmor clays, when 
the landscape " winks through the heat," and the sea 
ifc like molten gold. What we mean to convey is, 
that some of the finest natural elfacts are vaporous, 
and occur only when rain is falling or impending, and 
that it is pitiful in a strong man to miss these from 
fear of a wet skin. As we write, in the late autumn 
season, there is little to complain of on the score of 
wet. We have not had a drop of rain for a fortnight. 
The days have been bright and short, and the nights 
starry and briglit, with frequent flashes of the aurora. 
It if the gloaming of the year — 

" To ruspet brown 

The heather faded. On the treeless hill, 
O'er-rusted with the red decaying bracken. 
The Bheep crawl slow." 

This is the brooding hush that precedes the stormy, 
wintry season, and all is inexpressibly beautiful. The 
wind blows chill and keen from the north, breaking 
the steel-gray waters of the firth into crisp-wliito 
waves ; and, though it is late afternoon, the western 
sky hangs dark and chill over the mountains of Mull, 
while the east is softly bright, with clouds tinted to a 
faint crimson. There is no bri<i;htness on anv of the 
hills, save to the east, where, suffused with a roseate 
flush, stands Ben Cruachan, surrounded by those 
lesser heights, beautifully christened the " Shepherds 
of Loch Etive," a space of dafibdil sky just above him 
and them, and then, a mile higher, like a dome, one 
magnificent rose-colored cloud. Thus much it is pos- 
sible to describe, but not so the strange vividness of 
the green tints everywhere, and the overpowering 


sense of height and distance. Though every fissure 
and cranny of Cruachan seems distinct in the red 
light, the whole mountain seems great, dreamy, and 
glorified. Walking on one of the neighboring hills, 
the Wanderer seems lifted far up into the air, into a 
still world, where the heart beats wildly, and the eyes 
grow dizzy looking downward on the mother-planet. 

In autumn, and even in winter, stillness like this, 
dead brooding calm, sometimes steals over Lome for 
weeks together, and all the colors deepen and brighten ; 
but at such times, as at all others, the finest effects are 
those of the rain-cloud and the vapor, and no over- 
powdering sense of sunlight comes to trouble the 

Standing on the high hill behind his house, the 
Wanderer commands a wondrous view of the whole 
firth of Lome, and not least noticeable in the prospect 
is the number of ancient ruins. There, to begin with, 
is Dunollie, a fine foreground to Morven. Farther 
north, close at the mouth of Loch Etive, Dunstaff'nage 
stands on its promontory — a ruin on a larger scale, 
but, on the whole, less picturesque. Far across the 
firth, on the southern promontory of Mull, looking 
darkly on the waters of the gloomy sound, 

" Where thwarting tides, with mingled roar, 
Part the swart liills from Morven's shore," 

looms Duart, the ancient stronghold of the Macleans ; 
and fixrther still, scarcely distinguishable in the d'nii 

"Axdtornish, on her frowning eteep 
'Twixt earth and heaven hung," 


overlooks the same sound. Others there are, shut out 
from view by intervening hills and headlands ; indeed, 
wherever a bold promontory juts out into the water, 
there has been a castle, and more or less of the ruins 
remain. 'What light and meaning they lend to the 
prospect ! What a fine appeal they have to the human 
sentiment, quite apart from their sesthetie beauty, 
their delicious coloring. To call them castles is per- 
haps less correct than to describe them as private 
mansions of castellated form, with certain provisions 
against sudden assault. In each of them, of old, dwelt 
some petty chief with his family and retainers ; and 
at intervals, for some great end, these chiefs could 
flock together, as they did on the occasioa of the 
betrothal of the Maid of Lome — 

" Brave Torquil irom Dunvegan high. 
Lord of the misty hills oi Skye 
Macneil, wild Barra's ancient thane, 
Duart, of bold Clan-Gillian 't^ strain, 
Fergus, of Canna's castled bay, 
Macduffith, Lord of Colonsay," 

and any number of others — sea-eagles, building their 
nests on the ocean headland, and flitting from bay to 
bay by night to plunder and to avenge. They seem 
to have chosen the sites of their wild dwellings quite 
as much for convenience in embarking and for fishing 
purposes as for strategical reasons. Few of the old 
castles gain any strength from their situation. There 
are some, of coui*se, not situated close to the water — • 
such as Finlagm, in Isla, which was placed on an in- 
land lake, and others on the islaixls of Loch Dochart 
and Loch Lomond. Stalker Castle stood on an island 


not mxnh big-gcr than itself; so did Chisamil. None 
of these are protected against military attack, many 
of them being commanded by rising gronnd, a few 
volleys from which would have made short work of 
the defenders. Most of them, like Duart yonder, 
stand on rocks accessible only on one side, so that thev 
are well protected against personal assault. One 
thing was never forgotten — ^the dungeon for the ca]> 
tive foe. 

Dunollie shows to most advantao-e at a distance, iis 
a part of the landscape. The ruins consist only of a 
portion of the keep, which is overgrown with ivy. But 
the view from the promontory is very grand, and close 
at hand there is the Dog-Stone {Claeh-a^-choin), a 
luige mass of conglomerate rock rising up from the 
shore, and identified as the stake to which the £rreat 
Fenian king {Uigh na Feinne) used to tie his dog 
Bran. Bran ! Fingal ! At the very names, how the 
whole prospect changes! The ruins on each liead- 
land grow poor and insignificant, and in the large 
shadows of the older heroes the small chieftains dis- 
appear. The eyes turn to Morven and the " sound- 
ing halls of Selma," and, for the moment, all other 
associations are forgotten.* 

From Dunollie to Dunstaifnage is only a few miles' 
walk, and it is one to be undertaken by all visitors to 
Oban. The road winds through low hills of thynu; 
and heather, past green slopes where sheep bleat and 
cattle low, skirting pleasant belts of woodland, and 
occasionally fields of waving com, and passes on by 

* For remarks on the Ossianic poetry, eee Vol. II . the chapter 
on Glen Sligachan. 


the side of Loch Etive to the Pass of Awe ; but leav- 
ing it some distance before it reaches tlie loch, you 
nmst strike along tlie seashore to the promontory, 
or istlimus, on which stands DunstafTnage — a large 
square ruin, not very picturesque when so approached, 
though commanding a magnificent view. The cus- 
todian, who shows visitors over the castle, is a solemn 
young Celt, a gardener, who has quite a pretty little 
orchard adjoining his cottage. If you press him, he 
will give you the history of Dunstafihage in a narra- 
tive fully as interesting, and nearly as reliable, as any 
tale of fixiry-land, but distrust him, and turn to the 
guide-book, an extract from which we give below. ''^ 

* According to the Pictisli chronicles, Kenneth MacAlpine 
transferred the seat of government from Dunstaffnage to Fortc- 
viot, in Perthshire, in 843. As the Norwegians began to make 
inroads iipon the western coast of Scotland about this time. Dr. 
Jamieson thinks it highly probable that, on being deserted by its 
royal possessors, Dunstaffnage became a stronghold of the Norse 
invaders. For several centuries the place is lost sight of in the 
national annals, and only reappears during the eventful reign of 
Robert Bruce, who took possession of it after his victory over the 
Lord of Lome in the Pass of Awe. At that time it belonged to 
Alexander of Argyll, father of John, Jjordof Lome. Old charters 
show that the castle and lands of Dunstaffnage were, in 1430, 
granted to Dugal, son of Colin, Knight of Loch Awe, the ancestor 
of the family in whose possession, as " Captains of Dunstaffnage," 
it has remained to the present day. The existing representative 
of the family is Sir Donald Campbell, Bart., of Dunstaffnage. As 
a stronghold of the clan Campbell, Dunstaffnage was maintained 
down to the rebellions in 1715 and 1745, when it was garrisoned 
by the royal forces. The old castle is said to have been disman- 
tled by iire, in 1715. The nominal hereditary keeper of the castle 
is the Duke of Argyll. 

The castle is built in a quadrangular form, 87 feet square with- 


Perliaps, instead of engaging the faculties with 
doubtful tradition, it is wise to reserve the guide- 
book till you reach your home or inn, and to spend 
the whole time of your visit in looking at the sur- 
rounding prospect. Round the isles beneath the 
promontory, the tide boils ominously, setting in to- 
ward Conn el Ferry, a mile distant, where Loch Etive 
suddenly narrows itself from the breadth of a mile to 
that of two hundred yards, causing the waters to rush 
in or out, at flood or ebb, with the velocity of a tor- 
rent shooting to the fall. If the wind is down, you 
can hear a deep sound, just as Sir "Walter describes it : 

" The ragiug 

Of Connel witli his rocks engaging ; " 

for the narrow passage is blocked by a ledge of rock, 
" awash" at half tide, causing a tremendous overfall, 
the roaring surge of which is audible for miles. Seen 
from here, Cruachan seems to have quite altered his pos- 
ition — surrounded by the great " Shepherds," he casts 
his gigantic shadow over the head of Loch Etive, and 
seems in close proximity to the Glencoe range. 
Turning westward, you look right across the great 
waters of Loch Liimhe, and see the long green island 

in the walls, with round towers at three of the angles. The 
height of the walls is G6 feet, and their thickness d feet. The 
walls outside measure 270 feet ; and the circumference of the 
rock on wliich the castle stands is 300 feet. The entrance sea 
M ard is l)y a staircase, but it is probable that in ancient times it 
was by a drawbridge. A brass guu is preserved on the battle- 
ments bearing the date of 1700, showing that it is not a wrecked 
trophy of a ship of the Spanish Armada (1588), as is usually re- 

FII18T GblMl'SK OF LOllNE. :?^ 

of Lismoro, or the Great Garden, stretching snake- 
like at the feet of the mountains of Morven ; and, fol- 
lowing the chain of these mountains northward, 
where thej begin to grow dim in height and distance, 
tracing the mighty outlines of Kingairloch and Ard- 
gower, you may catch a glimpse, dim to very dreami- 
ness — a vague, momentary glimpse, which leaves you 
doubtful if you look on hill or cloud — of the monarch 
of Scottish mountains — Ben Kevia. 





Tho Season — Cuckoos — Summer Daj-s — Autimin - Winter — Moorland 
Lochs — Tlio i.''ii-Woocl — The Moors and the Sea — Farm-tiouscs and 
Crofters' Huts — Traces of former Cultivation on the Hills — The Piuined 
Saetcrs — Graveyard at DunstaHuage — Tho Island of Inishail. 

This is a mai'veloiis land, a scene of beauty, ever 
changing, and giving fresh cause for joy and wonder. 
Every year deepens the charm. One never tires of 
Cruachan and the " Shepherds," or of Dunollie and 
Morven, or of the far-off gHmpses of the sea There 
are no two days alike. Last year, it seemed that 
every possible effect of sun and shadow had presented 
itself; and now not a week passes without producing 
some scenic loveliness which comes like a revelation. 
But the charm is moral as well as aesthetic. The 
landscape would be nothing without its human faces. 
Humanity does not obtrude itself in this solitude, 
but it IS none the less present, consecrating the whole 
scene with its mysterious and spiritual associations. 

As the year passes there is always something new 
to attract one who loves Nature. * AVhcn the winds 
ol March have blown themselves faint, and the April 
heaven has ceased weeping, there comes a rich sunny 
day, and all at once the cuckoo is heard telling his 
name to all the hills. IS'ever was such a place ior 


cuckoos in the world. The cry comes from every tult 
of wood, from every hillside, from every projecting 
era":. The bird himself, so far from courtinii' retire- 
ment, flutters across your path at every step, attended 
invariably by half a dozen excited small birds ; 
alighting a few yards off, crouches down for a mo- 
ment between his slate-colored wings; and finally, 
rising again, crosses your path with his sovereign 

" O blithe new-comer, I have heard, 
I hear thee, and rejoice !" 

Then, as if at a given signal, the trout leaps a foot 
into the air from the glassy loch, the buds of the 
water-lily float to the surface, the lambs bleat from 
the green and heathery slopes, the rooks caw from 
the distant rookery, the cock-grouse screams from 
the distant hill-top, and the blackthorn begins to 
blossom over the nut-brown pools of the burn. 
Pleasant days follow, days of high white clouds and 
fresh winds whose wings are full of warm dew. 
AVherever you wander over the hills, you see the 
lambs leaping, and again and again it is your lot to 
rescue a poor little one from the deep pool, or stee]> 
ditch, which he has vainly sought to leap in follow- 
ing liis mother. If you are a sportsman you rejoice, 
for there is not a hawk to be seen anywhere, and the 
weasel and the foumart have not yet begun to prome- 
nade the mountains. About this time more rain 
falls, preliminary to a burst of fine summer weather, 
and innumerable glow-worms light their lamps in the 
marshes. At last, the golden days come, and all 
things are busy with their young. Frequently, in the 


midsummer, tliere is a drought for weeks together. 
Day after day the sky is cloudless and blue ; the 
mountain lake sinks lower and lower, till it seems 
about to dry up entirely ; the mountain brooks dwin- 
dle to mere silver threads for the water-ousel to fly by, 
and the young game often die for the lack of water; 
while afar off, with every red vein distinct in the 
burning light, without a drop of vapor to moisten his 
scorching crags, stands Ben Cruachan. By this time 
the hills are assuming their glory — the mysterious 
bracken has shot up all in a night, to cover them with 
a green carpet between the knolls of heather, the 
liclien is penciling the crags with most delicate 
silver, pui*ple, and gold, and in all the valleys there 
are stretches of light yellow corn and deep green 
patches of foliage. The corn-crake has come, and his 
cry fills the valleys. Walking on the edge of the 
corn-field you put up the partridges — fourteen 
cheepers the size of a thrush, and the old pair to 
lead them. From the edge of the peat-bog the old 
cock-grouse rises, and if you are sharp you may see 
the young following the old hen through the deep 
heather close by. The snipe drums in the marsh. 
The hawk, having brought out his young among the 
crags of Kerrera, is hovering still as stone over the 
edge of the hill. Then, perchance, just at the end of 
July, there is a gale from the south, blowing for two 
days black as Erebus with cloud and rain ; then going 
up into the northwest and blowing for one day with 
little or no rain ; and dying away at last with a cold 
puff from the north. All at once, as it were, the 
sharp sound of firing is echoed from hill to hill ; and 

nCTUims INLAND, 43 

on every mouiitiiu you see the sporUman climbing 
with his dog ranging above and before him, the 
keeper following, and the gillie lagging far behind. 
It \.-i the twelfth of August. Thenceforth, for two 
montlis at least, there are broiling days, interspersed 
with storms and showers, and the firing continues 
more or less from dawn to sunset. 

Day after day, as the autumn advances, the tint of 
the hills is getting deeper and richer, and by Octo- 
"ber, when the beech-leaf yellows and the oak-leaf 
reddens, the dim purples and the deep greens of the 
heather ai'e perfect. Of all seasons in Lome the late 
autumn is, ])erhaps, the most beautiful. The sea has 
a deeper hue, the sky a mellower light. There are 
long days of northerly wind, when every crag looks 
perfect, wrought in gray and gold and silvered with 
moss, when the high clouds turn luminous at the 
ed'T^es, when a thin film of hoar-frost gleams over the 
grass and heather, when the light burns rosy and 
faint over all the hills, from Morven to Cruachan, for 
liours before the sun goes down. Out of the ditch at 
the roadside flaps the mallard, as you pass in the 
gloaming, and, standing by the side of the small 
mountain loch, you see the flock of teal rise, wheel 
thrice, and settle. The hills are desolate, for the 
sheep are being smeared. There is a feeling of frost 
in the air, and Ben Cruachan has a crown of snow. 

When dead of winter comes, how wondrous look 
the hills in their white robes ! The round red ball of 
the sun looks through the frosty steam. The far-off 
firth gleams strange and ghostly, with a sense of mys- 
terious distance. The mountain loch is a sheet of 


blue, on which you may disport in perfect solitude 
from mom to night, with the hills white on all sides, 
eave where the broken snow shows the red-rusted 
leaves of tlio withered bracken. A deathly stillnet^s 
and a death-like beauty reign everywhere, and few 
living things are discernible, save the hare plunging 
heavily out of her form in the snow, or the rabbit 
scuttling off in a snowy spray, or the small birds pip- 
ing disconsolate on the trees and dykes. Then Peter, 
the tame rook, brings three or four of his wild rela- 
tions to the back door of the White House, and they 
stand aloof with their heads cocked on one side, while 
he explains their position, and suggests that they, be- 
ing hard-working rooks who never stooped to beg 
when a living could be got in the fields, well deserve 
to be assisted. Then comes the thaw. As the sun 
rises, the sunny sides of the hills are seen marked 
with great black stains and winding veins, and there 
is a sound in the air as of many waters. The moun- 
tain brook leaps, swollen, over the still clinging ice, 
the loch rises a foot above its still frozen crust, and a 
damp steam rises into the air. The wind goes round 
into the west, great vapors blow over from the Atlan- 
tic, and there are violent storms. 

Such is a mere glimpse of the seasons, as they pass 
in this pastoral land of Lome ; but what pen or pencil 
could do justice to their evei--changing Nvonders? 
Wherever one wanders, on hill or in valley, tiiere is 
somethins to fascinate and deliirht. Those moorlai.d 
lochs, for example 1 Those deep pure pools of dew 
distilled from the very heart of the mountains — 
changing as the season clianges — ^lying blue as steel 


in the bright clear light, or tiirninp: to rich mellow 
brown in the times of flood. On all of them the 
water-lily blows, creeping up magically from the 
under-world, and covering the whole surface with 
white, green, and gold — its broad and well-oiled 
leaves floating dry in delicious softness in the sum- 
mer sun, and its milk-white cups opening wider and 
wider, while the dragon-fly settles and sucks honey 
from their golden hearts, llow exquisitely the hills 
are mirrored, the images only a shade darker than 
the heights above ! Perhaps there is a faint breeze 
blowing, leaving here and there large flakes of glassy 
calm, which it refuses to touch for some mysterious 
reason, and tlie edges of which — just where wind 
and calm meet — gleam the color of golden fringe. 
Often in midsummer, however, the loch almost dries 
up in its bed ; and innumerable flies — veritable gad- 
flies with stings — make the brink of the water un- 
pleasant, and chase one over the hills. In such 
weather there is nothing for it but to make off to the 
fir-woods, and there to dream away the summer's day, 
with the bell-shaped flowers around you in one 
gleaming sheet, 

" Blue as a little patch of fallen sky," 

and the primroses fringing the tree-roots with pallid 
beauty that whitens in the shadow. The wood is 
delicious ; not too dark and cold, but fresh and 
scented, with open spaces of green sward and level 
sunshine. The fir predominates, dark and enduring 
in its loveliness ; but there are dwarf oaks, too, with 
twisted limbs and thick branches, and the moimtain 


ash is there, with its innumerable beads of crimson 
coral, and the fluttering aspen, and the birch, whose 
stem is penciled with threads of frosty silver, and 
the thorns snowed over with delicate blossoms. 

But, of course, the great glory of Lome is the open 
moor, where the heather blows from one end of the 
year to the other. There is something sea-like in 
the moor, with its long free stretch for miles and 
miles, its great rolling hills, its lovely solitude, 
broken only by the cry of sheep and the scream of 
birds. Lakes and water-lilies are to be found far 
south. There are richer woods in Kent than any in 
the Highlands. But the moors of the western coast 
of Scotland stand alone, and the moors of Lome are 
finest of all. Nowhere in the world, perhaps, does 
nature present a scene of greater beauty than that 
you may behold, with the smell of thyme about your 
feet, and the mountain bee humming in your ears, 
from any of the sea-commanding heights of Lome. 
Turn which way you will, the glorious moors stretch 
before you ; wave after wave of purple heather, 
broken only by the white farm with its golden 
fields, and the mountain loch high up among the 
hills; while the arms of the sea steal winding, now 
visible, now invisible, on every side, and the far-off 
firth, with its gleaming sail, stretches from the white 
lighthouse of Lismore far south to the Isla and its 
purple caves. Then the clouds! White and high, 
they drift ovcrliead, 

" Slow traversing the blue ethereal field," 

and you can watch their shadows moving on the moor 


for miles and miles, just as if it were the sea ! Nor 
is the scene baiTen of such little touches as make Eng- 
lish landscape sweet. There are bees humming every- 
where, and skylarks singing, and the blackbird whist- 
ling wherever there is a bush, and the swift wren 
darting in and out of the stone dykes, like a swift- 
winced insect. There are flowers too — little unob- 
trusive things, flowers of the heath — primroses, tormen- 
til, bog-asphodel, and many others. But nothing is 
purchased at the expense of freedom. All is fresh and 
free as the sea. After familiarity with the moor, you 
turn from the macadamized road with disgust, and 
will not even visit the woods till the fear of a sun- 
stroke compels you. Did we compare the moor to 
the sea ? Yes ; but you yourself are like an inhabit- 
ant thereof ; not a mere sailor on the surface, but a 
real haunter of the deep. What hours of indolence in 
the daep heather, so long as the golden weather lasts! 
The white farm-house in the center of its yellow 
glebe does not altogether suit tlie great free landscape, 
but from a distance it serves as a foil to bring out the 
rocks and heather. Sweeter far is the crofter's little 
hut, so like the moor itself that you only recognize it 
by the blue wreath of peat-smoke issuing from its 
rude chimney. It is built of rough stones and clods, 
thatched with straw and heather, and paven with clay. 
Over its outer walls crawls a gorgeous trellis-work of 
moss and lichen, richer than all the carpets of Persia ; 
and its roof is purple, green, and gold, such as no king 
ever saw in the tapestry of his chamber. This may 
seem a wild description of what tourists would regard 
as a wretched hut, fit only for a pig to live in ; but 


find a painter with a soul for color, and ask hhn. 
"Why, the very dirty children who stand at the door, 
shading their sunburnt faces to look at the passer-by, 
have tints in their naked skins and on their raerired 
kilts such as would fill a Titian's heart with joy. 
Here and there the hut is displaced to give place to a 
priggish cottage, with whitewashed walls and slate 
roofs ; but the crofters, to do them justice, rather shun 
the kind innovation, and prefer their old tenements. 
Step into the hut for a light to your pipe, and look 
around you. The place is full of delicious peat-smoke, 
which at first blinds you, and then, as your eyes ac- 
custom themselves to it, clears away, to show you the 
old grandfather bending over the flame, the wife stir- 
ring the great black pot, and the cocks and hens 
perched all around on the beams and rafters. He 
who fears foul smells need not be afraid to enter here. 
Peat-smoke is the great purifier. It makes all smell 
sweet, and warms every cranny of the poor place with 
its genial breath. 

The pieces of arable land are few, compared to the 
long stretches of moorland. The large farms have 
many acres of growing grain, and most of the little 
crofts have a tiny patch attached to them, from which 
they manage to grow a little corn and a few turnips 
and potatoes. 

But wherever you wander over the moors, you will 
see piteous little glimpses of former cultivation — the 
furrow-marks which have existed for generations. 
Wherever there is a bit of likely ground on the hill- 
side, be sure that it has been plowed, or rather dug 
with the spade. Standing on any one of the great 


heights, you Bce on cverj buIo of you tho green slopes 
marked with the old ridges ; and yon remember that 
Lornc in former days was a thickly jwpnlated district. 
AVe have heard it stated, and even by bo high an au- 
thority as the Duke of Argyll, tliat these marks do 
not necessarily indicate a higher degree of jjrosperity 
than exists in the same district at present, We are 
not so sure of that. Nor may the husbandry have 
been so rude ; since the spade must have gone deep 
to leave its traces so long ; and busy hands can do 
much, even to supply the want of irrigation. Attached 
to some of the existing crofts, which work entirely 
by hand-lal)or and till the most unlikely ground, we 
have seen some of the best bits of crop in the district. 
Be that as it may, the fact remains that once upon a 
time these hills of heather swarmed with crofts, and 
were covered with little fields of grain. 

Hemote, too, among the hills, in the most lonely 
situations, distant by long stretches of bog and moor- 
land from any habitation, you will find here and 
there, if you wander so far, a ruin in the midst of 
green slopes and heathery bournes. This is the ruin 
of the old Shieling, which, in former days, so resound- 
ed with mirth and souii;. 

" Oil, sad is tlie sliieling. 
Gone are its joya !" 

as Robb Gunn sings in the Gaelic. Hither, ere 
sheep-farming was invented, came the household of 
the peasant in the summer-time, with sheep and cat- 
tle ; and here, while the men returned to look after 
matters at home, the women and young people abode 



for weeks, tending the young l;inil)s and kids, watch- 
ing the inilch-cow, and making butter and clieese that 
were rich with the succulent juices of the surrounding 
herbage. Then the milk-pan foamed, the distaff went, 
the children leaped for joy with the lambs, and in the 
evening the girls tried charms, and learned love-songs, 
and listened to the tales of their elders with dreamy 
eyes. Better still, there was real love-making to be 
had ; for some of the men remained, generally unmar- 
ried ones, and others came and went ; and, somehow, 
in those long summer nights, it was pleasant to sit out 
in a flood of moonlight, and whisper, and perhaps 
kiss, while the lambs bleated from the pens, and the 
silent hills slept shadowy in the mystic light. Ko 
wonder that Gaelic literature abounds in " Shieling 
songs," and that most of these are ditties of love ! The 
shieling was rudely built, as a mere temporary resi- 
dence, but it was snug enough when the peat-bog was 
handy. In the wilds of the Long Island it is still used 
in the old manner, and the Wanderer has many a time 
crept into it for shelter when shooting wild fowl. 
The Norwegian saeter is precisely the same as the 
Scottish shieling, and still, as every traveler knows, 
flourishes in all its glory. 

We are no melancholy mourner of the past ; rather 
a sanguine believer in progress and the future ; but 
alas! whenever we look on the lonely ruins among 
the hills, we feel inclined to sing a dirge. The " Big 
Bed in the Wilderness," as the Gaelic bard named 
the saeter and pasture, is empty now — empty and 
silent — and the children that shouted in it are buried 
in all quarters of the earth ; aye, and many had reason 


to curse the crwoltj of luuu ere tliey died, for they 
were driven fortli jicross the watei-s from all that they 
loved. Some lived on, to see the change darker and 
darker, and then were carried on handy-spokes, in the 
old Scottish fashion, to the grave. Many a long sum- 
mer day could we spend in meditation over the places 
where they sleep. 

Highland churchyards are invariably beautiful and 
pathetic, but there are two in Lome of perfect and 
supreme loveliness. 

Adjoining the ancient stronghold of Dunstaffnao-e, 
Avhich we have described in a former chapter, there is 
a fir-plantation fringing the promontory and over- 
looking the boiling tides at the mouth of Loch Etive ; 
and in the heart of the plantation are the ruins of an 
old chapel, the four roofless walls of which still stand.* 
The ivy clings round the moldering walls, and the 
square space is filled with tombs and graves, long 
grass and weeds. Many dead lie there — dead that 
are now literally dust, and dead that only fell to sleep 
during the last generation. The old flat tombs, with 
their quaint-carved figures and worn-out inscriptions, 
were originally used to mark the graves of ancient 
chiefs and their families ; but now they do duty as 
the gravestones of fishermen and herdsmen. Whole 
families of poor folk, who lived and died with the 

* The original building, measuring only twenty-four yards by 
eiglit, is deformed by a modern addition at the east end, obscuring 
the altar window, which appears to have been very graceful, being 
in the early English style, with banded shafts and the dog-tooth 
ornament. Under the window a triple tablet extends round the 


wash of the sea in their ears, rest together here with 
the sea-spray on their graves. At all seasons, even on 
the hottest summer day, there is a chill exhalation 
here, a feeling as of the touch of damp marble. Tlie 
trees around snare the golden light, and twine it in 
and out of their dark branches till it is turned to faint 
silver threads. Flowers grow at the tree-roots, even 
in the grassy interstices between the graves ; and fresh 
flowers are thrown regularly on the large marble tomb 
closed in at the eastern side of the ruin, the last meet- 
ing-place of the Campbells of Dunstaffnage. 

Still more lovely is Inishail. It is a little island in 
the center of Loch Awe — the great fresh-water lake 
stretching for miles at the base of Ben Cruachan. At 
one extremity there is the ruins of a convent of Cis- 
tercian nuns ; at the other, the old burial-place whither 
the dead are brought over water to this day. Low 
and silent, the isle floats upon the mighty loch, with 
its little load of dead. Once in a year, in the summer- 
time, the sky falls, and lies in one sheet of delicious 
blue-bells over the island, so that it looks a blest place 
indeed ; one soft azure stain on the loch, in the long 
dreamy days, when the water is a glassy mirror; and 
the adjoining Black Isles cast their wooded reflections 
deep, deep down into the crystal gulf on which they 
swim. In the old days, the dead-boat would move 
slowly hither to the melancholy music of the bagpipes, 
echoing faint and far over the water ; and still, at 
loi2g intervals, it comes, but without the old weird 




Loch Awo and its Ancient Legend— Summer Days on the Lake— The 
Legend of Fraoch Eilan— Kilchurn Castle — Effects of Moonlight and of 
Storm— View from Glcnara— The Pools of Cladich— Duncan Ban of the 
gongs— His Coiro Chcathaich— His Mairi Ban Og, and Last Adieu to 
the Hills— Songs of tho Children of tho Mist— Tho Pass of Awe— The 
Ascent of Ben Cruachan. 

Standing on the island of Inishail. you Bee out- 
stretched before you one of the loveliest scenes in the 
world — the whole glorious expanse of Loch Awe, with 
its wooded and castled isles, the dark mouth of the 
Pass of Awe, and the towering heights of Ben Crua- 
chan. This, indeed, may well be named the Heart 
of Lome ; for out of the mighty sheet of water innu- 
merable brooks and rivulets stretch like veins to nour- 
ish all the land. The great mountain towers above, 
" varying momently his crest," and surveying the out- 
stretched map of the Hebrides as far north as Canna, 
and as far south as the headland of Cantyre. 

The ancient legend of Loch Awe is preserved in the 
beautiful tale of Bera. In the old dark days, far, far 
back in time, when there were great heroes on the 
earth, and great sages to guide their arms, Cruachan 
stood yonder, as he stands now — 

" Struggling with the darkness all day long. 
And visited all night by troops of stars ;" 


and his scarce accessible lieiolits were covered witli 
great deer. All went well till there arose on Orua- 
clian a fatal Well, fulfilling certain melancholy proph- 
ecy. Bera, the beautiful daughter of Grin an, the 
last of the sages of old, was charged to keep watch, 
and daily, as the last rays of the sun sank behind the 
mountain, to cover the mouth of the well with a mys- 
tic stone, marked with the strange runes of the sages. 
But Bera was a great huntress ; and one day, after 
wandering far in pursuit of a mighty herd of deer, she 
returned to her seat so tired out that she fell to sleep 
beside the well. The sun sank, but Bera slept on, 
and the fatal well remained uncovered. At last, a 
thunderclap awoke her, and, springing up, she saw 
the raging of a fearful storm ; and, behold ! the fertile 
valley beneath herfeet was flooded with a great water, 
stretching far out of sight in all directions, lashed to 
fury by the wild wind, and illumed by the lightning. 
The fatal deed once done, there was no remedy, and 
Loch Awe remains to this day, mystically fed and 
feeding, the veritable Heart of Lome. 

The coach from Inveraray to Oban dashes along 
the shores of the lake, waters at Dalmally, and so on 
through the Pass of Awe; and the drive is a glorious 
one ; but he who would see Loch Awe indeed must 
live on its banks for weeks, watch it under all aspects 
of wind and cloud, and navigate its endless creeks and 
bays in an open boat. Few tourists do linger, save, 
of course, anglers, who come in spring after the ordi- 
nary loch-trout, and in autumn after the salrno ferox / 
but the great lake is full of interest for everybody, 
with its gorgeous and unapproachable eftects for the 


painter, its wild old stories for the poet, its castles and 
cjraveyards for the antiquarian, and its general air of 
fascination for the idler and lover of beauty. 

During the Bumnicr drought, Loch Awe is the hot- 
test place in Lome. The lake sinks in its bed day 
after day, till numberless hidden rocks begin to jut 
through the glistering water. No stream breaks the 
dead silence with its joyous voice, for every stream is 
dry ; and Ben Cruachan is a sheet of red-lEire, sharply 
defined at the edges against a sky insufferably blue. 
At such times a fresh breeze often blows on the sea- 
board a few miles away, but without creeping inland 
to the gre it lake, over and around which buzz innu- 
merable flies of a venomous species, hovering in thou- 
sands round the cattle and driving the bare-legged 
herd-boy nearly mad. On the sides of Cruachan the 
adders swarm, though tlieyare never found elsewhere 
in Lome. But the scene is one of intoxicating beauty, 
calling up dreams of far-off Syria and its great lakes 
closed in by similar hills of stone, that scorch in the 
sunlight. For days together Loch Awe is a mirror 
without one speck or flaw, reflecting in its deep bosom 
the great clear mountains, the wooded islets, the gray 
castles moldering on their promontories ; every shape 
and tint of the glorious scene, amid which you wan- 
der quietly, or rather, being wise, lie quiescent, just 
sheltered bv the irreen bous^h of a tree, hovering^ 

" Between the dome above and the dome under. 
The hills above thee and their ghosts beneath thee !" 

till life becomes bo flooded with drowsy light that 
consciousness fades into a mere vacant dream, and all 


you behold appears beautifully unreal. Delicious it 
is in such weather to drift from place to place in a 
boat, slowly pulled by some swarthy IIi<);hlandman, 
on whose bare head the scorching beams fall harmless, 
and who, if he knows you well, may now and then 
break silence with some old tale or snatch of song. 
Just then the le2;end of Fraoch Eilan M'ill be most ac- 
ceptable, for you will have no difficulty in believing 
that Loch Awe is a veritable garden of the Ilesper- 
ides ; and the boatman will tell you, as he rows round 
the little island of Fraoch, how there was once on 
that island an enchanted garden, watched by a dragon ; 
how the fair Mego longed for the fruit that grew 
there ; how Fraoch, her lover, vainly endeavoring to 
gratify the longing of his beloved one, swam the lake 
and fought the dragon ; and how, alas ! when both 
Fraoch and the monster fell dead in fight, fair Mego 
died of unutterable grief. It is a story for the bright 
days, when the dog-star foams, and up above you the 
very hills seem to move in great glorified throbs. In 
your drowsy, semi-conscious state, you fully believe it, 
and see before you the golden apples dangling, and 
the golden dragon glaring — all a glitter of gold ; and 
you dip your kerchief in the water, and bind it round 
your brows, and dangle your arm up to the shoulder 
in the cool water, as the boat glides on, suspended 
above a fathomless abyss of gold and blue. 

But if Loch Awe can be hot and still, it can also 
be cold and wild. In windy weather its enormous 
expanse is as furious as a great arm of the sea, and 
the squalls plow the water into furrows of snow- 
white foam. On a dark day it is the blackest of all 


locLs — a very Acheron. But in any and every 
wcatlier it preserves Bome kind of beauty, and lias 
ever-varying attractions for the lover of nature — for 
every man, indeed, who is moved at all by the great 
forces of the world. 

Perhaps the finest point of vantage in the whole 
loch is Kllchurn Castle; and Kilclmm, though beau- 
tiful exceedingly in dead-still summer weather, ap- 
pears to most advantage when the wind is high and 
the waters w' ild. The ruin stands at the upper end of 
the lake, on a rock which was originally an island, 
but is now a sort of peninsula, connected by a flat al- 
luvial meadow with the higher shore ; and though its 
stones have been outrageously plundered to supply 
materials for a church and an inn at Dalmally, 
though every scrap of wood it ever contained has 
been pilfered and burnt, enough of the old place still 
remains to spiritualize the whole landscape ; a few 
crumbling walls being enough for the purpose in 
all such cases. Built originally at the time of the 
Crusades, in 1440, and occupied by a British garrison 
as late as 1745, Kilchurn still abides, and will abide 
for many a year to come, if not altogether demolished 
by the hand of man. Time has dealt gently with it, 
merely penciling the walls with soft lichens and 
golden moss ; and so far as time is concerned, it may 
be a ghost in the moonlight for a thousand years to 

Of course, Kilchurn is beautiful in moonlight — all 
old castles are, especially when they stand close upon 
the water; but the effects of moonlight, although 
doubtless far more defined than is generally supposed 


by people who do not study Kature for themselves, 
belonfij more to the imagination than the eye, if, in- 
deed, we are not continually moved by moonlight for 
peculiar physiological reasons, just as lunatics are 
moved, though in less measure. Fault has been 
found by Mr. Philip Ilamerton with poets in general, 
and Sir Walter Scott in particular, because they 
seem to think that the moon " does not respect local 
color, but translates everything into black and 
white ;"* and the same writer describes very amusing- 
ly how he, after reading Scott's lines about Melrose, 
and getting into the ruins furtively, his head full of 
melodious rhyme, discovered that the " ruins gray " 
were red; and was afterward informed "that the 
Minstrel was so little in earnest on the subject as 
never to have taken the trouble to drive over from 
Abbotsford and see Melrose for himself, as he had 
so waimly recommended everybody else to see it." 
Still, Scott was right, and Ilamerton is wrong, in 
spite of the false epithet "gray;" for what Scott 
meant to imply was simply that moonlight supplied a 
certain imaginative mystery ; a weird, silvern glamor, 

* See some remarks on this subject in Mr. Hamerton'a " Paint- 
r-r's Camp," an admirable book, in -wliich the attempts to describe 
natural effects, from a painter's point of view, are almost painful- 
ly lionest and faithful ; painfully bo, because betraying the dis- 
satisfaction of an a:'stlietic mind almost convulsed by llio tre- 
mendous truths of Nature, driven again and again to the de- 
spairing fear that absolute faithfulness to Nature is impossible, 
and trying, amidst its despair, to be rational at all hazards, rather 
than sentimental over the inadequacy of human effort. The re 
suit is a style curiously blending profound artistic feeling with 
enormous self-consciousness, and betraying an alarming leaven of 
t-echnicality, even in the sphere of ideas. 


in which all old ruina become most impressive. For 
the same reason, 

" He who would bco Kilcluirn aright 
Must visit it by pale moonlight," 

not on account of the effects of color, though many 
of these, as Mr. ITamerton lias finely shown, are most 
delicately defined and beautiful, but simply because 
moonlight is in esse a more emotional light than sun- 

But on some dark day, when Cruachan is black 
with shadow, and the rain-cloud driving past, when 
the loch is broken into great waves with crestlike 
head and hollows as black as ink, and when the wild 
lines of the rain shoot down in light over the old ruin, 
Kilchum becomes a spirit ; indeed, the almost human 
center of the scene. Look which way you will, it is 
the cynosure. Wild mists cloud the gorges of the 
Pass of Awe, the wind moans in the blackness of 
Cruachan, and Kilchurn, with the waves lashing at 
its feet, stares through the air like a human face, 
strangely relieved against the dazzling greenness of 
the meadow which links it to the land. What, in- 
deed, are all the effects of moonlight to that desolate 
look of loneliness and woe, mingled with secret 
strength to resist the elemental strife? 

" But a mere footstool to yon sovereign lord, 
Huge Cruachan (a thing that meaner hills 
Might crush, nor know that it had suffered harm) ; 
Yet he, not loth, in favor of thy claim 
To reverence, suspe.nds his own ; submitting 
All that the God of Nature hath conferred. 
All that he holds in common with the stars. 


To the memorial majcBfy of Time, 
Impersonated in lliy calm decay!" 

Truly docs the old ruin remain paramount, while 
mountains, torrents, lakes, and woods unite to pay it 
homage. It is the most perfect foreground possible 
for a mountain picture, forming not only a poetic 
center of human interest, but a fine scale wherewith 
to measure the mighty proportions of the hills and 
the wild expanse of troubled waters. 

The distance from Inveraray to the banhs of Loch 
Awe is about sixteen miles, the first fourteen of which 
are chiefly pleasant because every one of them re- 
moves you a little farther from Inveraray, that most 
depressing offish-smelling Highland towns; but about 
two miles from that lake there is a wretched hut, the 
owner of which sells — or used to sell until very re- 
cently — a very good "dram" to the pedestrian, in- 
spired with which fine spirit he is ready to look with 
treble rapture on the magnificent view from the top 
of the hill above Cladich. Ben Cruachan towers to 
the heavens in all his gigantic beauty, with dark 
hcatlier-clad flanks and red-tinted crags, and at his 
feet the great lake stretches broad and deep, studded 
with grassy and woody islets, which are green as 
emerald in summer time, and in the winter season 
dark-red with the withered bracken and fern. In the 
time of snow this scene becomes strange and im})ress- 
ing in the extreme. The spectator from the hill has 
a feeling of being suspended up in the air, and the 
sense of height and distance conveyed by the great 
white mountain is almost painful. From the far-olf 
cone of Cruachan a white smoke of drift-snow rises 


with tlie wind and blows away against the pale ^rcen 
of the cloudless sky. The dark-wooded flanks of the 
mountain contrast with the white snows and dim 
azure shadows of the bare crags and precipices. If 
the lake is a dead calm, as is usually the case at such 
times, the effect is still more mysterious, as every fea- 
ture of the spectral scene is repeated in a fathomless 
gulf of crystal clearness. 

At the foot of the hill is the little inn of Cladich, 
a cozy nest for anglers and all such peace-loving 
men ; and close to the inn there is a burn, shaded 
with trees and ferns, and fringed in spring-time with 
primroses and blue-bells. Oh ! the pools of Cladich ! 
the nut-brown pools, clear as amber, fed by little 
falls foaming as white as snow, and full of tiny trout 
that dart hither and thither, with dark shadows on 
the bottom of polished rock ! Many a bath have we 
taken there of yore, lying for hours like a very fresh- 
water Triton, clad as Adam, pipe in mouth ; and 
the friend of our boyhood in the next " bath," limbed 
like a young fawn, and little thinking of the terrible 
City by whose breath he died ! To us, as we write, 
Cladich seemed the sweetest spot in the world, and 
we could linger on, describing its loveliness, page 
after page, calling up memories of long summer days 
on the lake, dreamy musings on the wooded Black 
Isles, and walks by moonlight among the woods and 
falls behind the little inn — an inn with linen milky 
white, and the scent of heather in every room, and 
sometimes a plate of pansies in fresh water on the 
table. But to brood over these happy times would 
be to weary the reader. Away from Cladich ! Away 


by tlie road that winds northward along the shores 
of the lalco, and, after affording a magnificent view 
of Kilcluirn, reaches the village of Dalmally, a pleas- 
ant little place, with a good inn, a church, a pictu- 
resque bridge, and, best of all, a solid etone monu- 
ment to Duncan Ban, 

What Burns is to the Lowlands of Scotland, Dun- 
can Ban is to the Highlands; and more: for Duncan 
never made a poem, long or short, which was not set 
to a tune, and he first sang them himself as he wan- 
dered like a veritable bard of old. Duncan Macln- 
tyre, better known as Donacha Bun, or Fair-haired 
Duncan, was born here in Glenorehay in 1724, and 
he died at Edinburgh in 1812, in the golden days of 
the " Edinburgh Review." His had been a long life, 
if not an eventful one. For about forty-five years he 
dwelt among these hills, haunting " Coire Cheat- 
haich " at all hours, and composing his mountain 
music ; and sometimes traveling about the country 
to collect subscriptions to his poems, dressed in the 
Highland garb, with a checked bonnet, over which 
hung a large bushy tail of a wild animal ; a badger's 
skin, fastened by a belt, in front ; a hanger by his 
side, and a soldier's wallet strajjped to his shoulders. 
During these expeditions he was recognized wherc- 
ever he went by his peculiar appearance. On one 
occasion, a forward young man asked him, " If it was 
he that made Ben Dourain ?" "No," replied the old 
man, " Ben Dourain was made before you or I were 
born ; but I made a poem in praise of Ben Dourain." 
" He spoke slowly," writes the recorder of the cir- 
cumstance, " and seemed to have no high opinion of 


his own poems, and said little of Gaelic poetry ; but 
said that officeiB in the army told him about the 
Greek poets, and Pindar was chiefly admired by 

When Duncan Ban was forty-four years of age, he 
dictated his poems to a clergyman, who wrote them 
down for publication. For years they had been 
floating in the poet's mind to music of their own, and 
many had been carried from mouth to mouth across 
the Hebrides. They are simple in form as the hills, 
as sweet and gentle in sound as the mountain brooks, 
and many are most lengthy and elaborate, just like 
Ilio-hland tales, not because the subject is great in 
itself, but because the singer is so in love with it 
that he could sing about it forever. " Coire Chea- 
thaich, or the Misty Corri," is the masterpiece, being 
the description of the great corri in Glenorchay, 
where Duncan loved to roam. Here it is in English. 
Not a word is lost, but any Highlandman will toll 
you that no English could convey the unutterable 
tenderness and rich music of the original : 


My beauteous corri ! where cattle wander — 

My misty corri ! my darling dell ! 
Mighty, verdant, and covered over 

With wild flowers tender of the sweetest smell ; 
Dark is the green of thy grassy clothing, 

Soft swell thy hillocks most green ajid deep. 
The cannach blowing, the darnel growing, 

WTiile the deer troop past to the misty steep. 

* Mackenzie's " Beauties of Gaelic Poetry." 


Fine for wear is thy beauteous mantle, 

Btrongly woven, and ever-new, 
With rough grass o'er it, and, brightly gleaming. 

The grass all spangled with diamond dew ; 
It's round my corri, my lovely corri. 

Where rushes thicken and long reeds blow ; 
Fine were the harvest to any reaper 

Who through the marsh and the bog could go. 

Ah, that's fine clothing !— a great robe stretching, 

A grassy carpet most smooth and green. 
Painted and fed by the rain f r«ni heaven 

In hues the bravest that man has seen — 
'Twixt here and Taris, I do not fancy 

A finer raiment can ever be — 
May it grow forever !— and, late and early. 

May 1 be here on the knolls to see ! 

Around Ruadh Awridh what ringlets cluster! 

Fair, long, and crested, and closely twined. 
This way and that they are lightly waving. 

At eveiy breath of the mountain wind. 
The twisted hemlock, the slanted rye-grass. 

The juicy moor-grass, can all be found. 
And the close-set groundsel is greenly growing 

By the wood where heroes are sleeping sound. 

In yonder ruin once dwelt MacBhaidi, 

'Tis now a desert where winds are shrill ; 
Yet the well-shaped brown ox is feeding by it 

Among the stones that bestrew the hill. 
IIow fine to see, both in light and gloaming, 

The smooth Clach Fionn so still and deep. 
And the houseless cattle and calves most peaceful! 

Cirouped on the brow of the lonely steep. 

In every nook of the mountain pathway 
The garlic fiower may be thickly found— 

And out oi\ the sunny t-lopes around it 
llau" berries juicy and red and round— 


The penny-royal and dandelion, 

The downy cannach together lie — 
Tliickly they grow from the base of the mountain 

To the topmost crag of his crest so high. 

And not a crag but is clad most riclily, 

For rich and silvern the soft moss clings ; 
Fine is the moss, most clean and stainless, 

Hiding the look of unlovely things ; 
Down in the hollows beneath the summit 

Where tlie verdure is growing most rich and deep. 
The little daisies are looking upward. 

And the yellow primroses often peep. 

Round every well and every fountain 

An eyebrow dark of the cress doth cling ; 
And tlie sorrel sour gathers in clusters 

Around the stones whence the waters spring ; 
With a splash and a plunge and a mountain murmur 

The gurgling waters from earth upleap. 
And pause and hasten, and whirl in circles. 

And rush and loiter, and whirl and creep ! 

Out of the ocean comes the salmon. 

Steering with crooked nose he hies. 
Hither he darts where the waves are boiling — 

Out he springs at the glistening flies ! 
How he leaps in the whirling eddies ! 

With back blue-black, and fins that shine. 
Spangled with, silver, and speckled over. 

With white tail tipping his frame so fine 1 

Gladsome and grand is the misty corri. 

And there the hunter hath noble cheer ; 
The powder blazes, the black lead rattles 

Into the heart of the dun-brown deer ; 
And there the hunter's hound so bloody 

Around the hunter doth leap and play. 
And madly rushing, most fierce and fearless, 

Springs at the throat of the stricken prey. 


Oh, 'twas gladsome to go a-liunting 

Out in the dew of the sunny morn ! 
For the great red stag was never wanting. 

Nor tlie fawn, nor the doe with never a horn. 
And when rain fell and the night was coming. 

From the open heath we could svviftly fly, 
And, finding the shelter of some deep grotto, 

Couch at ease till the night went by. 

And sweet it was when the white sun glimmered. 

Listening under the crag to stand — 
And hear the moorhen so hoarsely croaking. 

And the red cock murmuring close at hand ; 
"WTiile the little wren blew his tiny trumpet. 

And throw his steam off blithe and strong. 
While the speckled thrush and the redbreast gaily 

Lilted together a pleasant song ! 

Not a singer but joined the chorus, 

Not a bird in the leaves was still. 
First the laverock, that famous singer, 

Led the music with throat so shrill ; 
From tall tree-branches the blackbird whistled, 

And the gray bird joined with his sweet " coo-coo ;" 
Everywhere was the blithesome chorus. 

Till the glen was murmuring through and througli. 

Then out of the shelter of every corri 

Ccme forth the creature whose home is there ; 
First, proudly stepping, with branching antlers. 

The snorting red-deer forsook his lair ; 
Through the sparkling fen he rushed rejoicing. 

Or gently played by his heart's delight — 
The hind of the mountain, the sweet brown princess. 

So fine, so dainty, so staid, so slight! 

Under the light green branches creeping 
The brown doe cropt the leaves unseen. 

While tlie proud buck gravely stared around him 
And stamped his feet on his couch of green ; 


Smooth and speckled, with soft pink nostrils. 
With beauteous hiiiid, hiy the tiny kid ; 

All apart in the dewy rushes, 

Sleeping unseen in its nest, 'twas hid. 

My beauteous corri ! my misty corri ! 

What light feet trod thee in joy and pride, 
What strong hands gathered thy precious treaaurea. 

What great hearts leapt on thy craggy side ! 
Soft and round was the nest they plundered. 

Where the brindled bee his honey hath — * 

Tke speckled bee that flies, softly humming. 

From flower to flower of the lonely strath. 

There thin-skinned, smooth in clustering bunches. 

With sweetest kernels as white as cream. 
From branches green the sweet juice drawing. 

The nuts were growing beside the stream — 
And the stream went dancing merrily onward. 

And the ripe red rowan was on its brim. 
And gently there in the wind of morning 

The new-leaved sapling waved soft and slim. 

And all around the lovely corri 

The wild birds Sat on theirnests so neat, 
In deep warm nooks and tufts of heather, 

Sheltered by knolls from the wind and sleet ; 
And there from their beds, in the dew of iho morning. 

Uprose the doe and the stag of ten. 
And the tall cliffs gleamed, and the morning reddened 

The Coire Cheathaich — the Misty Glen! 

One such poem conveys, even in a translation, a bet- 
ter idea of the writer's mind than whole chapters of 
expository criticism. How the Highlandman broods 
over every feature of the darling scene, from the 
weird "mountain ruin, where a family once dwelt," 
down to the little wren " flinging off his steam " (a 
queer and very favorite Gaelic expression) in the sun- 
shine ! Was a brook ever described better, as it 


" Pauses and hastens, whirls in circles, 
Rushes and loiters, and whirls and creeps ?" 

To Duncan the corri is a perpetual feast. With a 
painter's eye he hungers over the tints of the moss on 
the crags, the blue-black back and silver spangles of 
the salmon, the thin-skinned, smooth-clustered nuts on 
the green branches, the dark-green eyebrow of cresses 
round the mountain well ; and to him also all the 
sounds have maddening sweetness : the moorhen 
croaking, the thrushes and redbreasts warbling, the 
whole glen " breathing a choral strain ; " till at last, 
in one supreme poetic flash, he sees the dun doe and 
great stag springing up in the dew of a May morn- 
ing, and the " red light " flaming on every crag of 
the corri. Ilis was no mere song for beauty's sake ; 
there was love at the heart of it. To him the corri 
meant life and freedom, and the fresh air of the 
world — it meant youth and its memories, passion and 
its dreams, deep-seated religion and its mystery. The 
love he put into " Coire Cheathaich" took another 
form in Mairi Ban Og, which is esteemed the finest 
love-song in the Gaelic language, and is addressed, 
not to his sweetheart — not to a passing mistress, such 
as Burns immortalized — but to his wife ; is, in a word, 
the epithalamium of Duncan, the Highland forester, 
on his marriage with Maiy "of the ale-house." Every 
word is warm as sunshine, but holy and pure. IIo 
broods over his bride's beauty as he broods over na- 
ture, missing no detail, blessing the " clerk-given 
right " which makes the beauty all his own. lie de- 
scribes the "soft and round maiden with curly hair ; " 
her " breath sweet as apples growing ; " her " smooth 


lidded " bine eye ; lier body " as pure and white aa 
cannach ; " her warm hand, like a lady's; her little 
foot in its tiglit-iittin<^ shoe ; he tells us how " I\rairi " 
milks the cattle by the river, with the calves leaping 
round her ; how she wanders light-footed to the lone 
mountain shieling; how she sits " sewing bands and 
plain seams," or " working embroidery," in the cau- 
dle-light of the cottage, at night; and he adds, with 
true Highland pride, how she bears in her veins the 
*' blood of the King and MacCailean," and of the 
Macdonald " who was chief in Sleat." No love is too 
deep for her, no gift too great ; and he will kill for 
her " swans, seals, wild geese, and all birds " — nay, 
she has but to give the word, and she shall have the 
antlers of the best deer in the forest. Nothing is 
more remarkable in this love-song than the sacredness 
of its passion ; in it Duncan Ban has correctly repre- 
sented not only his own feelings, but the popular 
Highland sentiment about marriage. In Lome and 
Ihe Western Hebrides, the purity of the popular mind 
on this subject is most remarkable. The Highlander 
may sometimes err through excess of animal passion, 
but he is never consciously indecent, and he is utterly 
innocent of the "gaudriole." 

Happy years had Duncan Ban in Glenorchay, 
drinking into his soul every tint of the glorious land- 
scape, and loving the more the longer he looked. 
For six years he was sergeant in the Bread albane 
Fencibles, and when that regiment was disbanded, in 
1T99, he procured, by the influence of the Earl of 
.Ereadalbane, a place in the City Guard of Edinburgh, 



those poor old veterans bo savagely described hy Fer- 
guson in " Leith Kaces" : 

" Tlieir etuinps, erst used to filabegp. 
Are diglit in epatterdaelies, 
Wliase bailant hides scarce fend tlieir legs 
Fra weet and weary splashes 

0' dirt that day ! " 

lie was then seventy-five years of age. About this 
time he composed a quaint, long rhyme, in praise of 
Dunedin, or Edinburgh ; and the poem, although not 
one of his inspired productions, is deeply interesting 
from its quaint touches of wondering realism. The 
old man, with his sharp hunter's eye, missed nothing, 
as he wandered in the strange streets. He describes 
the castle, the battery, the abbey, the houses, " wealthy 
and great ; " the building of the parliament, where 
"reasonable gentlemen" administered justice, with 
free power to " hang the offender up high ; " the 
swells in the street, with powder in their curled hair, 
and a " bunch like silk on the top ; " the pretty 
ladies, with stays to keep them straight and thin, 
beauty-spots on their faces, strong, tight, and pointed 
shoes, with (adds the poet) " heels much too high ; " 
the coaches, and the hard-hoofed horses frisking and 
prancing, so much finer than any reared on Highland 
pastures. All this was pleasing for a time, while it 
had the charm of novelty ; but, doubtless, the heart 
of the old bard wearied for the hills. Some years 
after, on the 19th of September, 1802, he visited 
hi3 heme, and wandered a long day among the 
scenes he loved bo well, and then and there composed 


the most beautiful of all his poems — " The Last Fare- 
well to the Hills." He was then seventy-eight years old. 


Yestreen I stood on Ben Dorain, and paced its dark-gray patli ; 
Was there a lull I did not know — a glen, or grassy strath ? 
Oh I gladly in the times of old I trod that glorious ground. 
And the white dawn melted in the sun, and the red-deer cried 

How finely swept the noble deer across the morning hill. 

While fearless played the fawn and doe beside the running rill ; 

I heard the olack and red cock crow, and the bellowing of the 

deer — 
I think those are the sweetest sounds that man at dawn may 


Oh ! wildly, as the bright day gleamed, I climbed the mountaiu'a 

And when I to my home returned, the sun was in the west ; 
'Twas health and strength, 'twas life and joy to wander freely 

To drink at the fresh mountain stream, to breathe the mountain 


And oft I'd shelter for a time within some shieling low. 

And gladly sport in woman's smile, and woman's kindness know. 

Ah ! 'twas not likely one could feel for long a joy so gay ! 

The hour of parting came full soon — I sighed, and went away. 

And now the cankered withering wind has struck my limbs at 

last ; 
My teeth are rotten and decayed, my sight is failing fast ; 
If hither now the chase should come, 'tis little I could do ; 
Though I were hungering for food, I could not now pursue. 

But though my locks are hoar and thin, my beard and whiskers 

How often have 1 chased the stag with dogs full swift of flight I 
And yet, although I could not join the chase if here it came. 
The thought of it is charming still and sets my heart on flame. 


Ah ! much &s I have done of old, how ill could I wend now, 
By glon, and strath, and rocky path, up to the mountain's browt 
How ill could I the mierry cup quaff deep in social cheer ! 
How ill now could I sing a song in the gloaming of the year I 

Those were the merry days of spring, the thoughtless tintes of 

youth ; 
'Tis Fortune watches over us, and helps our need, forsooth ; 
Believing that, though poor enough, contentedly I live, 
For George's daughter, every day, my meat and drink doth give.* 

Yestreen I wandered in the glen ; what thoughts were in my 

head ! 
There had I walked with friends of yore — where are those dear 

ones fled ? 
I looked and looked ; where'er I looked was naught but sheep f 

sheep I sheep ! 
A woeful change was in the hill ! World, thy deceit was deep 1 

From side to side I turned mine eyes — alas ! my soul was sore — 
The mountain bloom, the forest's ])ride, the old men were no 

Nay, not one antlered stag was there, nor doe so soft and slight. 
No bird to fill the hunter's bag — all, all were fled from sight ! 

Farewell, ye forests of the heath! hills where the bright day 

gleams ! 
Farewell, ye grassy dells ! farewell, ye springs and leaping 

Farewell, ye mighty solitudes, where once I loved to dwell — 
Scenes of my spring-time and its joys — forever fare you well! 

After that, Duncan Ban returned to Edinburgh, 
and remained in the City Guard till about 180G, when, 
having saved a lew pounds from his wages and the 

*" George's daughter " was the musket carried by him as a 
member of the City Guard, and servant of King George. The 
value of his " meat and drink " was fivcpenco or sixpence a day. 


profits of liis published poems, he was enabled to re- 
tire and spend his remaining years without toil of any 
kind. lie was eighty-eight years old when he died, 
On the IDth of May, 1812, he was buried in the Grey- 
friars' Burying Ground, Edinlnirgh ; and a few years 
ago the monument was raised to his memory in Glen- 
orchay. Ilis fame endures wherever the Gaelic lan- 
guage is spoken, and his songs are sung all over the 
civilized world. Without the bitterness and intellect- 
ual power of Burns, he possessed much of his senti- 
ment, and all of his personal tenderness ; and as a 
literary prodigy, who could not even write, he is still 
more remarkable than Burns. Moreover, the old, 
simple-hearted forester, with his fresh love of nature, 
his shrewd insight, and his impassioned speech, seems 
a far completer human figure than the Ayrshire 
plowman, who was doubtless a glorious creature, 
but most obtrusive in his independence. Poor old 
Duncan was never bitter. The world was wonderful, 
and he was content to fill his humble place in it. lie 
had " an independent mind," but was quite friendly 
to rank and power wherever he saw them ; for, after 
all, what were they to Coire Cheathaich, with its nat- 
ural splendors ? What was the finest robe in Dun- 
edin to the gay clothing on the side of Ben Dorain ! 
Bm*ns never saw Nature as Duncan Ban saw her ; was 
never merged into her, so to speak, never became a 
part of flying cloud and brooding shadows ; rather 
petted and fondled her like a mistress, with most un- 
utterable tenderness, but no awe. Burns was the in- 
tellectual being, man, lord of the earth and all its 
creatures, their lover till the end, but always their 


lord ; bitter witli the world, bitter with his own sins ; 
too proud to gauge ale-barrels, but not too proud to 
get dead drunk or to debauch women ; hurled down 
like a torrent by his own sheer force and strength, a 
divine singer, a shameless satirist, the lover of" Mary 
in heaven," and the undoubted author of some of the 
filthiest " suppressed poems " in the " Merry Muses."* 
Duncan Ban " of the Songs " was a silent man, not 
specially intellectual, content to hawk his poems 
about tlie country, and sing them at the fireside, with 
scarce a touch of satire in his whole nature, with a 
heart quite pure and fresh to the end, when, as an old 
man, he bade the hills " farewell forever." In the 
life of Burns we see the light striking through the 
Btonn-cloud, lurid, terrific, yet always light from heav- 
en. In the life of Duncan Ban there is nothing but 
a gray light of peace and purity, such as broods over 
the mountains when the winds are laid. Burns was 
the mightier poet, the grander human soul ; but many 
who love him best, and cherish his memory most ten- 
derly, can find a place in their hearts for Duncan Ban 
as well. 

As we quit the Highland poet's grave, and follow 
the highway to the Pass of Awe, there is other music 
in our ears besides that of " Coire Cheathaich" and 
the " Last Farewell ;" for did not tlic " Children of the 
Mist," haunting like mountain deer the secret gorges 
of Cruachan, utter many a lyrical plaint full of music 

* The woefullest picture in the worhl is the last portrait of 
Burns, wliich we regret to sec inserted in Dr. P. II. Waddell's 
otherwise invaluable edition of the poet's works. This portrait, 
once seen, haunts the beholder for ever. 


and heart's agony ? Keaders of tlie " Legend of Mon- 
trose " and tlie "Lady of the Lake" know now by 
heart the wrongs of tlie Macgregors, the " clan that 
was nameless by day;" and Gaelic literature abounds 
with songs recording the sufierings and threats of the 
bloody outlawed clans — songs most weird and terri- 
ble, with frequent glimpses of wild tenderness. One 
of the best of these is the " Hills of the Mist," the tra- 
dition concerning which states that tlie singer, after 
having hidden her hunted kinsmen in a bed within the 
mountain shieling, sat down on the floor and crooned 
to herself a song bewailing their non-apjpearance : 

" Oh, where are my kinsmen ? Oh, where do tliey wander ? 
I Avatch for them lonely ; I wait and I ponder." 

And the pursuers, listening outside and noting the 
terrible agony of her voice (no counterfeit that, for 
might not the butchers enter at anv moment and de- 
tect her ruse ?) passed on in the darkness without 
searching the shieling. 

The Pass of Awe is very beautiful, the road wind- 
ing high up among the crags and woods and overlook- 
ing the wild waters of the river. Close to the bridire 
which spans the stream took place the famous fight 
between Bruce's followers and those of John of Lome, 
when the bodies of the latter, miserably overthrown, 
choked and rendered bloody the impetuous flood. 
Along this path walked Mrs. Bethune Baliol, escorted 
by the exuberant Donald Macleish, on that memorable 
occasion when she saw the tree, the waterfall, and the 
solitary human figure — " a female form seated by the 
stem of the oak, with her head drooping, her hands 


clasped, and a dark-colored mantle drawn over her 
licad, exactly as Judith is represented in the Syrian 
medals as seated under her palm-tree."''^ The form 
of the miserable woman, still as a corpse or a marble 
statue, haunts the eye of the traveler at every step ; 
rock, tree, and falling water assume her likeness ; and 
the ear is filled with her memorable words of grief — 

" My beautiful ! my brave !" 

There is no shape of fiction so closely wedded to an 
actual scene. The Pass of Awe and the Highland 
Widow are inseparable. The one solitary human 
soul, in its unutterable dolor, surrounded by somber 
crags and corries, and water plunging from pool to 
pool with sullen roar, is more truly regent of the 
place than all the traditional figures of clansmen and 
Children of the Mist. 

Following the road along the Pass of Awe, you 
reach Tyanuilt, whence the ascent of Ben Cruachan is 
tolerably easy. Mountain climbing is always glorious, 
be the view obtained at the highest point ever so un- 
satisfactory ; for do not pictures arise at every step, 
beautiful exceedingly, even if no more complex than 
a silver-lichened boulder half buried in purple heather 
and resting against the light-blue mountain air ; or a 
mountain pool fringed with golden mosses and green 
cresses, with blue sky in it and a small white cloud 
I'ke a lamb ; or a rowan tree with berries red as coral, 
sheltering the mossy bank where the robin sits in his 
nest? He who climbs Cruachan will see not only 
these small things, but he will behold a series of crag 

* Scott's " Highland Widow." 


pictures of iinapproticliable magnificence — coiTies red 
and ruffcred, in the dark iissures of wliiclisnow Hnircrs 
even as late as June, pyramids and minarets of granite 
glistering in the sunshine through the moisture of their 
own dew, stained by rain and light into darkly beauti- 
ful hues, and speckled by iimumerable shadows from 
the passing clouds. There is a certain danger in 
roaming among the precipices near the summit, as the 
hill is subject to sudden mists, sometimes so dense 
that the pedestrian can scarcely see a foot before him ; 
but in summer-time, when the heights are clear as 
amber for days togetlier, the peril is not worth calcu- 
latiu"". On a fine, clear day, the view from the sum- 
mit — which is a veritable red ridge or cone, not a fiat 
table-land like that of some mountains — is very pecu- 
liar. It can. scarcely be called picturesque, for there 
is no power in the eye to fix on any one picture ; and^ 
on the other hand, to liken it to a map of many colors 
would be conveying a false impression. The effect is 
more that of a map than of a picture, and more like 
the sea than either. Tlie spectator loses the delicate 
sesthetic sense, and feels his whole vision swallowed up 
in immensity. The mighty waters of Awe brood 
sheer below him, under the dark abysses of the hill, 
with the islands like dark spots upon the surface. 
Away to the eastward rise peaks innumerable, moun- 
tain beyond mountain, from the moor of Rannoch to 
Ben Lomond, some dark as night with shadow, others 
dim as dawn from sheer distance, all floating limitless 
against a pink horizon and brooded over by a heaven 
of most delicate blue, fading away into miraculous 
tints, and filling the spirit with intensest awe ; while 


in tlio west is visible the great ocean, stretching armH 
of shining sheen into the wildlj broken coiist, bright- 
ening around the isles that sleep upon its breast — 
Tiree, Coll, Rum, Canna, Skye — and fading into a 
long vaporous line where the setting sun sinks into 
the underworld. Turn where it may, the eye ip satis- 
fied, overcharged. Such another panorama of lake, 
mountain, and ocean is not to be found in the High- 
lands. As for Lome, you may now behold it indeed, 
gleaming with estuaries and lakes — Loch Linnho, the 
Bay of Oban, and the mighty Firth as far south 
as Jura, and, northward over the moors, a divine 
glimpse of the head of Loch Etive, blue and dreamy 
as a maiden's eyes. The head swims, the eyes dazzle. 
Are you a god, that you should survey these wonders 
in such supremacy? Look which way you will, you 
behold immensity — measureless ranges of mountains, 
measureless tracts of inland water, the measureless 
ocean, lighted here and there by humanity in the 
sliape of some passing sail smaller to view than a sea- 
bird's wing. For some little time at least the specta- 
tor feels that spiritual exhaltation which excludes 
perfect human perception ; he yields to a wave of 
awful emotion, and bows before it as before God. He 
can be sestiietic again when he once more descends to 
the valleys. 




Grouso and Black-gamo Shooting — A September Day on the Moors — Tho 
Grouse-shooter — Peat Bogs — Arrival of Snipo and Woodcock — Moun- 
tain Lochs and other Haunts of Wild-fowl — False and Tnio Sportsmen. 

Sport on the moors of Lome is what sport should 
be — a great deal more like wild-shooting than is gen- 
erally the case on the great moors of the north. The 
game is not numerous, but strong, wary, full of health 
and strength. There is no overcrowding, as on the 
Perthshire and Aberdeenshire moors. In addition to 
Argyllshire grouse, bright, rufus-breasted, full-chested, 
altogether the finest bird to be found in this country, 
and beyond all measure superior to the smaller-sized 
and darker-plumaged bird of the eastern moors, there 
are black -game in abundance, a few partridges, brown 
and blue hares, a sprinkling of snipe, and a large 
number of wild-fowl, Koe-deers are plentiful in 
some districts, but the red-deer is seldom found. The 
%alino ferox abounds in Loch Awe, and all the rivers 
afibrd more or less salmon angling, while many of the 
small mountain lochs are as full of excellent trout as 
a pond in Surrey is full of sticklebacks. TVe have 
heard greedy sportsmen, used to wholesale butchery 
of bird and beast, complain of the barrenness of Lome, 
and certainly Lome is barren as compared with the 


great moors fnrther north ; tliongh it has this one 
great advantage, tliat it affords excellent sport long 
after the birds have packed elsewhere, and not a shot 
is to be had except by driving. In Lome, moreover, 
the game in no way injures the population — is not 
numerous enough to ruin the farmer and poor crofter; 
is not valuable enough to be preserved at the cost of 
human lives. Any true sportsman will find his appe- 
tite fully gratified, though not by enormous " bags." 
All his skill will come into requisition — all his lacul- 
ties will be duly tested. 

Yearly, when the 12th of August dawns, the 
sound of shootino; echoes from hill to hill, over the 
purple sea of moorland that surrounds the TVTiito 
House on the Hill ; and the dogs leap eagerly in (ho 
kennel v/henever their master passes; and overhead, 
on the top of the knoll, a cock-grouse crows cheerily 
in the sunshine. But the Wanderer is not to be tempt- 
ed. The 20t]i of August is time enough to touch 
grouse in most seasons ; and the black -game should 
invariably be left in peace till the 1st of September. 
Of course, where the object is merely to secure a 
larjie number of birds, the earlier in the season one 
commences the better; but it is scarcely conceivable 
how any rational being can find pleasure in butcher- 
ing a poor bird when it is no bigger than a chicken 
and a great deal stupider, and when it is as easily liit 
as a target at thirty yards. Grouse-shooting is poor 
sport till the birds run well, instead of lying like 
Btones at the mere sound of a distant footstep, and till 
they rise on the wing, swift and strong as an old cock, 
directly after the dog has fairly ennsed them to draw 


together and crouch. Black-game shooting on the 
moors is miiuanly sport. Tlie birds won't got up, 
and are again and again collared l)y the over-eager 
dog, and when they do rise, early in the season, why, 
a boy miglit hit them with a pea-shooter as thty^ dash 
clumsily away. But black-game shooting at evening 
fliglit, when the birds are wild beyond measure, and 
come down in hundreds to feed on the corn sheaves, is 
quite another sort of sport, worthy of any man with a 
clear eye and steady nerves. By this time the young 
cock is getting something like his adult plumage, and 
is a fair prize, both as an edible and for the sake of 
his feathers. He is wonderfully wary and keen- 
sighted when feeding on the ground, but will seldom 
break his flight. Often on the moors, while lunching 
in the shade of some woody knoll, we have been dis- 
turbed by a flock of black-game whizzing past, one 
after another, a few yards distant, and not altering 
their course by an inch, even when they perceived 
their danger and saw some of the advance-guard 
dropping stone-dead to the flash and report of the 

On some morning in the month of September, the 
moor is in all its glory, stretching its mighty billows 
in all directions in one streak of luxurious purple and 
glittering green, broken up here and there by great 
rocks and lichened cra2:s, and all flooded with the lio;ht 
of the sun. The sportsman sweats and pants, the 
dogs hang out their tongues and work heavily, un- 
guided by a breath of wind ; the gillie lies on his 
stomach and dips his heated face in every burn ; and 
hy midday you have killed perhaps a couple of brace 



of birds. Then comes the long delicious siesta hj 
the brink of some crystal pool of the stream, and 
(after the lightest possible lunch) the pipe or cigar, 
in the enjoyment of which you lie on your side in 
the dry old heather, and watch the small shadows, 
cast by clouds as white as wool, moving noiselessly 
and sleepily over the free expanse of the heath — 
brooding at times as still as stones — at times hasten- 
ing together like a flock of sheep, with the golden 
gleam on every side of them. If you are fortunate, 
about this time there comes a shower; just a sprink- 
ling for a few minutes, soft as dew on the grass at 
dawn, scented as a maiden's breath. The moor 
sparkles, the air feels fresh and free, and when you 
loosen the dogs, they no longer toil wearily with loll- 
ing tongues, but work in narrowing runs up the 
faintest possible breath of wind, draw swift and 
steady to the deep patch whither the pack have run, 
and become all in a moment rigid, with fixed eyes 
and dilating nostrils. Now and again, in such weath- 
er, the best dog in the world will miss his game, 
or, running unawares into the thick of them, scat- 
ter them like chaff. Of course, as is well known, 
each member of the broken pack will, at the begin- 
ning of the season, lie like a stone, wherever you 
mark it down, and sometimes almost suffer you to 
seize it with your hand. As the day advances, 
and the heat lessens, the bag increases; and about 
sunset, when the birds liave left the springy bogs 
and betaken themselves to the dry knolls of young 
heather to feed, you will have sport in perfec- 


The signs of a good grouse-shooter are few and un- 
mistakable, lie must be a steady walker, not so 
swift as to weary the dogs, not slow enough to fij)oil 
them, and not given to puffing like a porpoise when 
climbing the hillside. He must be a good snap 
shot, ready at any moment to take a chance when 
it comes, with or without a point ; he must account 
for two birds out of every pack that rises ; and he 
should kill his birds, dead. He must be silent, for 
talking, above all things, spoils sport; sober, for 
dram-drinkinsr endanjieis both himself and his com- 
panions ; good-humored, or the keepers and gillies 
will hate him and spoil his chance whenever they 
can ; and, above all, humane, never shooting at a 
bird with the faintest chance of merely wounding it 
and letting it get away to die. In addition to all 
this, he must be a man to whom the moor is familiar 
at all seasons, who knows the haunts of birds in all 
sorts of weathers, who understands the whole theory 
of heather-burning, who is as well acquainted with 
every natural sign as the mountain-shepherd him- 
self. Most men, of course, leave all things to their 
keepers, come to their moor on the 12th, and are 
taken about in due course at the beck and nod of 
" Donald." Some of those men shoot well ; few of 
them are worthy of the name of sportsmen. Merely 
to be able to present a gun and knock down a mark 
is a feat that any " hedge-popper" can attain. Prac- 
tical knowledge, loving observation of nature, power 
of silence, take time to grow ; but they are essential. 
In addition to them may be mentioned a certain 
capacity of enduring physical discomfort, without 


which the grouse-shooter is no better than any pigeon- 
killer in the suburbs of London. 

There are no very bad bogs in Lome, though occa- 
sionally, while grouse-shooting, we have seen a broth- 
er sportsman disappear almost up to the arm-pits, 
and dragged him with some difficulty out of the oozy 
earth and green, slimy subterranean pools. In hot 
weather, the grouse frequent the parts where the peat 
is cut and piled, and drink at the black pools in the 
hollows. At this time, the black-game come there 
also for the same pm-pose. In a " peat-bog " not 
fifty yards square, we have put up from twenty to 
thirty black -game singly, each crouching unseen till 
fairly run upon by the dog, and consisting of several 
old hens and their packs of young. They will lie, 
too, in the queerest holes imaginable, on the sides of 
ditches. We have seen our setter rigid and moveless 
over a hole where only a water-rat might be expect- 
ed to dwell, and where a gray hen was huddled up 
for the sake of the coolness and shade. The old 
cock is never to be found in such places. lie broods 
alone and sulky, in some spot where he can have 
a free flight out of the way of danger. The most fa- 
vorite of all places for young black-game in the heat 
of the day are the deep patches of bracken and fern 
on the moor, where they can run about with a very 
forest of greenness above their heads; but they soon 
learn to prefer the corn-fields, from the fact that the 
latter combine both food and shelter. Many sports- 
men greatly annoy the firmer by covertly sending 
their dogs into the standing com, and shooting the 
Btartled binls from the edges. This practice is most 


repre]icnsl])lc, and slioiild be discountenanced by all 
true sportsmen. Any tiling that interferes, however 
Blightly, with the rights of others, should be aban- 
doned; and the farmer's crop is of infinitely more 
importance to the world than the shooter's game- 

But we arc being betrayed into a treatise on 
grouse-shooting, whereas it is merely our intention 
to sketch in a general way the possibilities of sport in 

As the season advances, tlie birds grow scarcer and 
scarcer — less and less approachable. A white frost 
sometimes tames the red grouse, never the black ; and 
both sooner or later form into great packs, which 
pass away like a cloud, long ere the sportsman gets 
within gun-range. A little may be done by dri\dng, 
but not much. Instead of harassing the grouse late 
in the season, it is better to turn one's attention to 
other game. Hares and rabbits abound in many dis- 
tricts, especially the blue hare, which goes to earth 
like a cony. About November the local snipe, rein- 
forced by legions from the north, swarm in all the 
bogs and marshes, unless it is very wet, when they 
scatter in every direction over the damp hillsides. 
One fine night the little "jacks" arrive, sprinkling 
themselves all over the country, and offering chance 
after chance, in their peculiar fashion, to blundering 
sportsmen. Last of all come the woodcocks, two or 
three at a time — first taking to the deep clumps on the 
hillside, and afterward selecting winter quarters by 
the side of the ninlcts that water the hazel-woods. 
Many of them, however, only rest a few days in 


Lome, and then disappear, in all prol)ability winging 
farther sonth. Those which linger through the whole 
winter often remain to breed in the spring. 

The lochs amono; the hills abound in wild-fowl, 
many of which breed there. There is one small mere, 
not a mile distant from the White House on the Hill, 
which we have seen as thickly covered with teal and 
widgeon as a duckpond in the Zoological Gardens. 
At such times, however, it is exceedingly difficult to 
get a shot ; so numerous are the eyes watching, and 
so easily do the birds take the alarm, that " sitting- 
shots " are out of the question. The best plan is for 
the sportsman to place himself in ambush, at one end 
of the water, send his man to disturb the birds at 
the other, and trust to chance for a shot flying. If 
the affair is properly managed, ho may fire five or six 
times, as fast as he can load ; and perhaps the teal, 
less waiy than the larger duck, may alight on the 
water, within a few yards of his ambush. Directly 
frost comes, the small lochs are abandoned, and the 
wild-fowl betake themselves to the arms of the sea. 
In a severe season, when all the fresh-water meres are 
frozen over, the salt-water lochs afford excellent sport ; 
the better, in our opinion, because the birds are wild 
beyond measure, and will test all the shooter's powers 
of skill and patience. 

We will not detain the reader by any further enu- 
meration of the sports of Lome, particularly as our 
notion of sport is peculiar, and lias nothing in com- 
mon with the ideas of men who delight in slauirhter. 
To us, sport is only desirable in so far as it develops 
all that is best and strongest in a man's physical na- 


ture, tries his powers of sclf-patiencc and endurance, 
quickens his senses, and increases his knowledge of 
and reverence for created things. In bo far as it 
renders him callous to suffering and selfish in his en- 
joyments, sport is detestable. There are yearly let 
loose upon the moors of Scotland a set of men who 
are infinitely less noble than the beasts and birds they 
murder ; who are brutal without courage, and conceit- 
ed without dignity ; who degrade all manly sports by 
their abominable indifference to the rights alike of 
fellow-men and dumb creatures. Fortunately, all 
sportsmen in Scotland are not men of this sort ; a few 
fine-souled gentlemen are sprinkled here and there ; 
but there is far too much brutal murder on all hands, 
by beings who take a savage pleasure in the mere 
slaughter of things as tame as hens and sheep. The 
true test of a day's sport is not the number of 
head secured, but the amount of skill and pluck requi- 
site to secure it! Depend upon it, also, the man 
who recklessly and wantonly takes away the lives of 
dumb things merely for the sake of killing, would, if 
his wretched neck was as secure in one case as in the 
other, assist with equal pleasure at the massacre of his 
fellow-men. Many of the men who joined in the in- 
fernal carnival of murder in India some years ago, 
and, in so doing, left on this nation a taint which God 
will sooner or later avenge on our boasted civilization, 
had firet developed the taste for blood in the pheasant 
coverts of England and the swarming moors of the 

Wild-fowl shooting on the sea-fjords, otter-hunting 
on Kerrera, salmon-angling in Loch Awe, sea-fishing 


on the firth — any of these might supply matter for a 
separate chapter, if we were to chronicle one tithe of 
our experience ; but we are compelled to pass on to 
more moving matter, only remarking, in conclusion, 
that, although the lover of battues and wholesale 
slaughter may find himself better served elsewhere, 
the true sportsman will never regret a season spent 
with rod and gun, afloat and ashore, on the lochs and. 
moors of Lome. 




The Ocean Queen, or Ooffin — Shon Macnab's Raco with tho Barber — 
Lachlan Finlay — From Ci-inan to tho Dorus Mhor — Ilcbridoan Tides — 
Scarba— Tlio Gulf of Con->'\-rcckan — Its Horrors and Perils— Luing and 
tho Small Isles— Tho Open Firth — Easdalo and its Quan-icrs — Tombs at 
tho Door — Miseries of Calm — Gylen Castle and tho Island of Kcrrcra — 
King Haco's Invasion of the Hebrides — A Puff from tho Southeast — 
Tho Island ot Mull — Johnson and Boswell in tho Hebrides- A Run to 
Tobermory — Loch Sunart— A Rainy Day — .\rdtomish Castle — Anchored 
bctwocn Wind and Tide- Night on the Firth— Troubles of Darkness — 
Farewell to tho Ocean Queen — Arrival of the Tern. 

The Firth of Lome stretches from Loch Crinan (a 
spot familiar to every Highland tourist) as far as the 
entrance to the Sound of Mull ; after passing which, 
it changes its name to Loch Linnhe, and creeps north- 
ward, ever narrowing till it reaches Bannavie, and 
forms the narrow estuary of Loch Eil. 

Strictly speaking, only the mainland coast as far as 
Loch Crinan appertains to Lome, but in old times 
Mull was included, as well as many of the far-off 
islands. Be that as it may, the Firth of Lome is a 
glorious sheet of salt water, fed by the mighty tides 
of the Atlantic, and forming, both on the islands and 
on the mainland, a line of sea-coast not easily matched 
for loneliness and beauty. Numerous islands, large 
and small, stud the waters, forming narrow passages, 
through which the tide boils with terrific fury. Great 
heights, grassy and rocky, rise everywhere out of the 


sea, casting dark shadows. Everywhere the bhick 
teetli of the reef threaten the seaman. Innumerable 
bays and land-locked lakes lie close in the shelter of 
the coast ; but the anchorages are nearly all bad and 
dangerous, on account of the submerged rocks and 
the foul bottom. 

To see this firtli aright, to enjoyits wondrous scene- 
ry in a way quite impossible to the ordinary tourist, 
the Wanderer secured the Ocean Queen^ a small yacht 
of nine tons, thirty-four feet long, seven and a half 
feet beam, and drawing precisely six feet of water aft. 
She was the crankiest vessel ever built by the hand 
of man, and was speedily known by the nickname of the 
Coffin. Her mainsail was an enormous sheet of can- 
vas, though luckily somewhat old and tearable ; and 
she canned also a gaff-topsail. Her speed, running 
before the wind, was very great ; and, beating to 
windward, she managed finely as long as she could 
carry canvas. She was quite unfit for a dangerous 
coast like that of Lome, where the storms are sudden 
and the squalls terrific ; but she had a neat little 
cabin and snug forecastle, so that she made a toler- 
able floating-home. Many a fright did the Wanderer 
get in her. Latterly, he managed to render her pret- 
ty snug by running in the bowsprit, and sailing her 
with the foresail only and single-reefed mainsail ; but, 
from first to last, she was as fickle as an unbroken 
filly ; her vilest quality of all being her awkwardness 
in " coming about," even under the most experienced 

Having secured this noble vessel, the Wanderer had 
to look about for a suitable person to assist him in 


managing her — no difJicult task, it may be imagined, 
on a fishing-coast and close to a fishing-town ; but, in 
good trutli, lie was doomed to a bitter expcrienoLj. 
After trying several impostors, who betrayed them- 
selves in a day, he secured the services of Shon Mac- 
nab, a gigantic Gael, six feet three in his shoes, and 
about twenty years of age. A fine specimen of the sailor 
was Shon, with his great red face, flaming whiskers, 
and huge hands ; and he knew how to move about 
the boat as well as an east-country fisherman, and was 
altogether smart at his work, from taking in a reef to 
climbing up the rigging to set the gaff-topsail. But 
Shon had two most inevitable faults — he was inordi- 
nately vain and utterly untruthful. No man knew how 
to handle a boat but Shon Macnab ; all his townsmen 
were poor pretenders. No one could pilot a boat on the 
west coast but Shon ; he knew every rock and shal- 
low, and every sideway, from the Mull of Cantyre 
to Cape AVrath. Unfortunately, however, Shon had 
never been farther from Oban than Ardnamurchan, 
and his knowledge of the coast consisted of a sort of 
second-sight — very gratifying to the possessor, but 
liable to get the confiding owner of a boat into serious 
trouble. All went well with Slion for a time ; but at 
last, mad with success, he secretly wagered " the Bar- 
ber " to race the latter's vessel, an open fore-and-afl 
boat, very superior in seaworthiness, from Oban round 
the Lady's Rock and back round Kerrera, a distance of 
about forty miles. So one day the Wanderer came 
down to the shore just in time to see the Ocean Queen 
rounding the Maiden Island on her way to the Lady's 
Rock, and side by side with her the Barber's boat. It 


was blowing half a gale of wind, and the Barber soon 
tnmed back to the bay ; bnt Shon, with a picked crew 
of Gaels, all wild with whisky, doubtless, still held on 
his wild caieer; while the Wanderer, climbing the 
heights above the town, watched his vessel, and ex- 
pected every minute to see it submerged. A big sea 
was rolling in the firth, and the little boat, too sorely 
pressed under canvas, was sadly knocked about. She 
reached Oban in the afternoon, with only a tear in 
the mainsail ; but her planks were slightly strained, 
and she was never as tight after that day. Although 
Shon begged wildly for pardon, the Wanderer was in- 
exorable, and sent him about his business. 

For some little time it seemed as if no tit person 
would appear to take Shon's place. Several candi- 
dates appeared, but were rejected on various scores 
— greediness, dirtiness, stupidity, or old age. At 
last the Wanderer discerned a small tradesman in the 
villa<re, who had been a herring-fisher, and whose 
only present occupation was to sit on a sack and whit- 
tle wood with a knife, while his wife managed the 
shop. Lachlan Finlay was from the " high-hill coun- 
try," on the skirts of Morven, and was a true Celt of 
the quieter kind — very cold and distant on first acquaint- 
ance, but affectionate in the extreme. Every day 
that the Wanderer sailed with Lachlan he liked him 
better. He wa tolerably good at his work — he was 
thoroughly truthful, and as simple-hearted as a child, 
lie had the " boating mind" of a boy, and was never 
happy without his pocket-knife to work with. His 
" pouches" were full of nails, bits of string and other 
odds and ends. lie was as clean as an infant, mind 


and body, wliilo having a keen perce])t.ioji of the 
value of money. 

As Laclilan knew nothing of the coast, the Wanderer 
had to work liia way about by the government charts, 
picking his steps, so to speak, from place to place, 
with extreme caution, and ever dreading the hidden 
dangers of the iirtli. Many a narrow escape had the 
Ocean Queen in those days — at one time swinging to 
her doom on the fierce tide of Dunstaffnagc, and only 
being saved by superhuman endeavors to tow her 
out of the tideway with the punt ; at another, bump- 
ing and scratching on the submerged rocks to the 
north of the l^Iaiden Island ; sometimes caught in the 
open, and having to run for life ; at others drifting in 
the darkness on some unknown and dangerous portion 
of the coast. One adventure of this sort is as good as 
another, and as in the course of a certain cruise we 
had an opportunity of seeing the whole scenery of 
the firth, let us here chronicle our experience. 

We had run up to Crinan to meet a fiiend from the 
south. Having taken him on board, we slipped out 
of the basin at daybreak, with all canvas set, save the 
gaff-topsail, and ran with the light breeze on our 
quarter across to the Dorus Mhor, or Big Gate, a 
narrow passage formed by the peninsula and islands 
of Loch Craignish. At spring-tides, the tide in the 
Dorus runs five miles an hour, and, when there is a 
breeze, the cross seas are terrific. Running with 
wind and tide, the Ocean Queen actually flew ; but 
while she was shooting through the Dorus the waves 
broke fiercely over her counter, and as the boiling 


tide dragged at her tliis way and that, it was a task 
of no ordinary skill to keep her steady with the helm. 
The steamship plows her way through the passage, 
though sometimes with difficulty, and those who stand 
on her deck look down on the boiling gulf in safety ; 
hilt it is different with those who sit in a tiny craft, 
with the water lapping around and over them, and 
the bubbling roar painfully audible. These tide- 
ways are ugly indeed to the seaman's eye. IIow the 
water hisses and swirls, now like green glass with its. 
own motion, now broken into foam, now rushing to 
the overfall and plunging down ! IIow the cross- 
currents tug at the little craft, as if seeking to drag 
her to her doom ! Sometimes a huge coil of seaweed 
marks the hidden rock, a floating tangle gives a false. 
alarm, whirling on the surface of the waters ahead. 
The tides of the DorusMhor and the adjoining Sound 
of Scarba are only equaled by the tides of the Kyles 
of Skyc. 

On the present occasion there was no danger, and 
as the dawn blo&somed into full bright day, we left, 
the DoruB Mhor behind, and, keeping close along the 
mainland, which si retched far along to the right, we 
followed the inner channel of the Firth of Lome. 
We were soon abreast of Scarba, a single conical 
mountain, rising abruptly out of the sea, and fashion- 
ing itself into an island about three miles long, very 
precipitous and rocky, but having on the eastern side 
a series of thinly-wooded declivities, which, in the 
gentle light of the summer morning, were touched 
Avith tints of quite ethereal beauty. Between Scarba 
and Jura, which stretches far to the southward, is a 


narrow Bound, opening on the great dim ocean, and, 
looking through the jjassage, we ever and anon 
caught a wliite gleam, as of great waves breaking in 
the distance. Yonder lay the far-famed Gulf of Cor- 
ryvreckan, and it was to escape the force of the tide, 
which sets for miles toward the dreaded passage, that 
wc were keeping so close to the mainland shore. 
Corryvreckan is the Ilebridean Maelstrom, ever re- 
garded with fearful eyes by the most daring sailors of 
the inland deep. l*oets may be allowed to sing, like 
Campbell, of " the distant isles that hear the loud 
Corbrechtan roar ; " or, like Scott, of 

" Scarba's isle, whose tortured sliore 
Btill rings to Corryvreckan's roar ; " 

but it is no mere poetical dread that fills our Lachlan's 
heart as he leans against the mast and searches the 
distance. From infancy upward, the name of yonder 
gulf has been to him a word of awe and terror. lie 
has heard of great ships being swallowed up whole, 
torn into pieces by the teeth of hidden reefs, and 
vomited out in fragments miles away on the Islay 
shore. He has seen old men turn pale by the very 
fireside at the mention of Corryvreckan. He believes 
that the ebb tide in Corryvreckan, " when the wind is 
from the west, would drown a man-of-war as easily 
as the shell of a nut." He has, nevertheless, heard 
stories of vessels that have passed safely through the 
terrific place ; but these, to him, were no less than 
miracles, brought about by a special Providence. 

The Wanderer used to smile at the yams of sailors 
and fishermen, with their dark accumulation of mystic 


terrors ; but the more he navigated the watere in his 
unprofessional way, the less skeptical he grew. In 
good truth, familiarity with the sea, instead of breed- 
ing contempt, only strengthens the sense of awe. Its 
dangers are not forever on the surface ; they i)rescnt 
themselves slowly and upon occasion. When the 
Wanderer first began to sail small craft, he saw little 
or no peril ; now, every day afloat increases his cau- 
tion and respect for the elements ; and if he goes on 
in the same ratio for a few years longer, he will be 
afraid to venture on the water at all. In seafaring 
matters, distrust the man who seems stupidly indiffer- 
ent to danger, and over-confident. Choose the man 
who has his eve cast forever to windward, with that 
hungry watchfulness so peculiar to the skilled fisher. 
Never forgive him if, in sailing in an open boat, you 
catch him fastening the sheet, though only with a 
half hitch ; for, be certain, the man wdio does that ia 
irreclaimable, and will drown you some day. 

Of course, the accounts of Corry vreckan are exag- 
gerated — the danger consisting not in the whirlpools, 
but in the terrific sea raised by the wind when con- 
tending with the tidal wave and the long Atlantic 
swell in the narrow passage of the sound. In times 
of stonn the place is indeed perilous, and verily caj)a- 
ble of drowning a large vessel. Caught in the num- 
berless currents, a ship becomes at once unmanage- 
able, and must drive whither Fate directs — either to 
strike on some corner of the coast, or to spring her 
planks and sink to the bottom ; or, perhaps — as hap- 
pened on one traditional occasion — to be swept in 
safety out of the tide along the Jura shore. In the 


most dangerous part of the gulf, wliere it is a hundred 
fathoms deep, there is a submerged pyramidal rock, 
rising precipitously to Avithin fifteen fathoms of the 
surface, and the result is a subaqueous overfall, caus- 
ing in its turn infinite gyrations, eddies, and counter- 
currents. There is most danger at the flood-tide, 
which sets from the eastward, through the gulf, at 
the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, and encoun- 
ters the whole swell of the Western Atlantic rolling 
into the narrow sound. At turn of tide tliere is a 
brief lull, during which, in calm weather, boats have 
passed through ; but the attempt is at all times to be 
avoided, as the slightest miscalculation as to the tides, 
or the sudden rising of the wind, would render escape 
impossible. At all times Corryvreckan "roars," the 
sound being audible even close to the mainland shore. 
The poet Campbell heard it at a distance of many 
leagues, at Downie House, close to Loch Crinan. He 
compares its effect in calm weather, when all the sur- 
rounding seas are still, to the sound of innumerable 

Quitting the Peninsula of Craignish, we had 
reached the shores of the Island of Luing, which, 
with Seil, Shuna, and small isles innumerable, lies so 
close to the mainland as almost to form a portion of 
the coast of the Nether Lome. Seil is separated from 
the mainland by a channel of only a few yards, form- 
ing a rapid, river-like sound, two miles in length. 
Low and undulating, these isles present few points of 
beauty, but up behind them lies Loch Melfort, a salt- 
water lake of rare loveliness, surrounded by magnifi- 
cent cliffs of ivy-clad gneiss. Out beyond them, to 



the west, and lyinjr close to and due north of Scarba, 
are Lunga and the Black Isles. Closed in on each 
side, we were runninf]^ before the wind np the broad 
passage known as the Sound of Scarba, and were soon 
struggling in the tideway opposite the Black Isles, on 
the largest of which a lighthouse is situated. A few 
minutes later, however, we were clear of all the isles, 
and saw before us the glories of the great firth 
stretched out in the golden light of a summer day. 

Due west of our little vessel stretched the open At- 
lantic, growing dimmer and dimmer in distance, with 
a ghostly ship afar, beating southward under full sail; 
but down to the northwest, fifteen miles away, rose 
the gigantic mountains of Mull, their deep purple 
hues mingling with mist upon the peaks ; while far- 
ther north yet, the white lighthouse of Lismore 
gleamed with the gleam of breaking waves at its 
base — and above and beyond mountains innumerable 
darkened the distance. Straight before the yacht's 
bow the firth sparkled, its waters visible for many a 
mile, and a whole fleet <)i' fishing-boats, large and 
small, white-sailed and red-sailed, were drifting in 
the slack tide, over a broad patch of dead calm, off 
the great cliffs of the island of Kerrera, which 
mingled with the mainland on the starboard bow. 
The breeze that had brought us thus far was dying 
fast, and scarcely hud we run three miles ahead, and 
got abreast of the little island of Easdale, when it 
died away altogether, suddenly as breath from a mir- 
ror, and left us rolling about most uncomfortably on 
the smooth sea. It is ever thus in summer ; no wind 
can be relied on for many hours together ; and henco 


the great danger of navigating the inland channels, 
with their fierce tides. 

The boat which conveys the ordinary tourist to 
Oban calls at Easdalc, but few strangers pay any at- 
tention to the unpicturesquo little island. Easdale is, 
nevertheless, worth a visit, for the sake of its slate 
quarries, which are perhaps the finest in Scotland ; 
still more for the sake of its jjopulation, all depend- 
ent on the quarries, all born in the locality, and living 
quite isolated there, summer and winter. Many old 
Buperstitions that have died their lingering death 
elsewhere still flourish here, together with many primi- 
tive manners and customs. The men of Easdale are 
true Celts — daring boatmen and intense dreamers — 
speaking the fine tongue that many southerners deem 
nearly extinct, but which still remains the common 
and cherished speech of Lornc and the Hebrides. lie 
who walks among their houses will note, here and 
there, large slabs of stone setup on end. These have 
been purchased and preserved — docs the reader guess 
for what purpose ? For gravestones ; reserved by the. 
owners to mark their own places of rest. Here and 
elsewhere in the Hebrides, one not only finds the 
islander preparing his own shroud, but buying his 
own tombstone. There they stand, daily monitors of 
the Inevitable, with the great ocean murmuring for- 
ever close to them — a daily preacher of the Eternal. 

It is always weary work, waiting for the wind ; to 
look this way and that, in dim hope and expectation, 
despairingly whistling according to the sailors' super- 
stition ; to see the water darken miles off, and the 
shadow creepmg nearer and nearer, and then, just as 


you expect yom* sails to fill, miserably dying ; or 
worse still, as on the present occasion, to watch with 
fierce chagrin the breeze at your back, which for 
hours together blows pleasantly a hundred yards be- 
liind you, and there, for some mysterious reason, 
pauses, and won't come a single inch nearer; or, 
worst of all, to drift on the swift current, in spite of 
all your efforts, toward some dreaded danger, from 
which only a smart "puff" could bear you away in 
safety. He who uses a sailing-boat* must recommend 
to his spirit many hard virtues, foremost among which 
is patience. The wind is ever perverse, and will serve 
no man's will. It is most perverse of all on an 
island coast like that of the Hebrides. Breezes of all 
sorts are bred among the clouds of the hill-tops, and 
they are ever rushing down when least expected. An 
cx])erienced eye can see them coming, but that is all. 
Even in summer, it is impossible to predict the 
weather with much certainty. 

For hours we drifted on a glassy sea, beguiling part 
of the time by popping unsuccessfully at a shoal of 
porpoises, which tumbled for some minutes about a 
hundred yards from the vessel, in pursuit of the 
herring, doubtless, for numberless gulls and terns 
screamed in the air or floated like ourselves on the 

* A good story is told of the old Clyde bargeman who, eailingf 
slowly on the firth, and finding himself pas.scd by the first steam- 
boat, watched the latter till almost out of earshot, and then, un- 
able to keep silence any longer, bawled out : " Ayo ! get awa' wi' 
your DeU'sreek " (Devil's smoke) ; •' I'm just sailing as it pleases 
the breath o' God/" And there is something in this idea of tho 
"breath of God," after all, apart from the comic connection in 
the anecdote. 


■water. Tlic tide still took us in the rip;lit direction, 
and we otcw nearer and neare to the fleet of fishinir 
boats becalmed off KeiTera; until at last, to our dis- 
gust, a nice pnff of wind struck them ahead, and, 
beatini^ slowly northward, they drew one by one to- 
ward the opposite shores of Mull. 

It was now afternoon, a dimly-bright spring after- 
noon, and we were floating off Gylen Castle, the 
shadow of which was clearly visible in tlie smooth 
sea. Gylen, like Dunollie, was an old stronghold of 
the Lords of Lome. Its gray tower stands on a preci- 
pice overlooking the ocean, in the center of a desolate 
bay, which has been washed and torn into the wildest 
fonns of crag and scaur by the roll of the Western 
Sea. It commands a full view of the boundless At- 
lantic. The heights of Kerrera above it are dark and 
verdureless, and deepen its look of loneliness and deso- 
lation. Even on this summer day it appears pitiful 
and lonely ; but in darker days, when it looms through 
the sad mist like a ghost, it seems to have a look of 
almost human sorrow. Many a wild scene of lif© and 
revel has it beheld. Now its only inhabitants are 
the owl and the wild-rock pigeon, the latter of which 
builds in great numbers among the rocky cliffs of the 

This said island of Kerrera, although not strikingly 
picturesque in form, possesses such peculiar fascina- 
tions as grow upon the imagination. It is separated 
from the mainland by a narrow strait or sound, half 
a mile wide, at the northern extremity of which lies 
the beautiful bay of Oban ; is four miles long and 
two miles broad ; and presents an irregular surface of 


hill and dale, on which can be had a harder daj'ii 
walking than anywhere else in Lome. It is a great 
luiunt of the otter, and its crags shelter birds of prej 
of all descriptions, from the hooded crow to the pere- 
grine falcon. But its chief attractions are on tlio 
coast, and the way to behold them is to spend the 
long day in rowing right round its shores. The cliffa 
and outlying islets form themselves into pictures of 
rare beauty, shifting with the lights and shadows of 
heaven and ocean. The waters on both sides are dan- 
gerous for sailing vessels, being sown everywhere with 
reefs and shallows ; studded on the outer coast with 
many small black islands, in the neigliborhood of 
which are all sorts of submerged dangers ; and most 
unpleasant of all is the narrow inner sound, which is 
full of rocks not all marked in the charts. Beatino- 
to windward up the Sound of Kcrrera is disagreeable 
work ; the short tacks are so wearisome, besides beinff 
full of danger to one not well acquainted with the 
coast. The squalls off the coast of the mainland, 
when the southeast wind blows, are sharp and sudden, 
often striking you straight from the heights without 
ruffling an inch of the sound to windward. Woe be- 
tide the helmsman who fails to " luff " skillfully at 
such times. On certain days, no skill is of much 
avail. The puffs come and go, with intervals of calm ; 
and just as the vessel has lost all way in the latter, 
and is lying dead still, the squall leaps upon her like 
a tiger, and she staggers on, lialf drowned, happy to 
escape with her mast above water. 

One never stands on Kerrera without thinkin<r of 
King Haco's memorable invasion of Lome and the 


Tsico, which is recorded in our second volume. TIcro, 
in Kerrcra, King Alcxanderll. had that weird dream, 
when St. Olaf, St Magnus, and St. Cohimha appeared 
to him and warned liim to return home to Scotland; 
and here the king, having disregarded the warning, 
died of a mysterious distemper.* Hither, to the 
same anchoiage, doubtless, (Ilorse-shoe Bay?) came 
the Norwegian monarch, and found King Dugal and 
other Ilebrideans waiting to receive him. From the 
Kyles of Skye to Loch Ranza and Loch Long, there 
is scarcely a portion of the coast that the great 
invasion does not render memorable. Nothing has 
changed since then. Tobermory, and Kerrera, and 
Loch Ranza, and the other places where the Nor- 
wegian vessels lay, are our anchorages to this hour. 
Standing on the high cliffs of Kerrera, and gazing 
across the Firth of Lome to the opening of the Sound 
of Mull, we have often pictured the quaint Nor- 
wegian vessels issuing one by one out of the dis- 
tance, with "Haco the aired" in the lar<Test — "built 
wholly of oak, containing twenty-seven banks of oars, 
and adorned with heads and necks of dragons over- 
wrought with gold." There is no finer figure in his- 
tory than that of Ilaco the King, with his stately 
generosity, his deep piety. 

' The actions of the just 
Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust V 

He was a prince indeed, sowing thought and order 
wherever he stepped, and when the end was near, 

* * Konongr sagdi draumin ; ok fysto flestir at hann skylldi 
afto sn 'la. Enn hann villdi Pat egi ; litlu sidarr tok hann sott 
ok andadiz. ' (See Vol. II. the '• Saga of Haco the King.") 

^04 THE LAND OF 1.0n>;E. 

bearing his lingering illness with holy calm. " lie 
desired ]Sforwcgian books might be read to him day 
and night; first, the ' Lives of Saints,' and when they 
were ended, the ^ Chronicles of our Kings from Ilal- 
dan the Black,' and so of all Norway's kings, one 
after another." Nor did he forget his followers, great 
or small, but bequeathed them loving gifts ; and with 
his dying breath he left orders for the guidance of 
Magnus his son', in dealmg with the people and the 
army. Finally, surrounded by the Wise Men of his 
kingdom, he passed " from this home's life," leaving 
a name and fame that smell sweet to the present day. 
The summer calm did not last long, and it was 
broken with ominous suddenness. All at once, a low 
faint moan was heard, the water darkened in Kerrera 
Sound, and the great boom swung over with a violent 
tug at the mast as the sail filled. " Take in a reef, 
Lachlan, for we're going to have as much as we can 
carry !" Lachlan laughed and hesitated, but the 
Wanderer, whose experience told him what was com- 
ing, brought the boat up to the wind, handed the 
helm to his southern friend, and sprang at the reel 
points — Lachlan assisting vigorously, though with a 
very skeptical air. The wind did come, blowing on 
our quarter with considerable force, and it soon be 
camo necessary to take oft' the foresail and lower the 
peak of the mainsail. Thus eased, the Ocean Queen 
bowled round the southern point of Kerrera and out 
into the dancing waters of the open firth. Aa she 
ran between Kerrera and the islands at it« extremity, 
we saw the great eonnorants sitting bolt upright m a 
Ion ^ TOW on one ol the Lies witn theii dirty white' 


j>atch at the throat like a strect-prcaclier's neck-cloth. 
We piisscd just out of gunshot, and fired asahite into 
the air above their lieads. A few phinged into the 
sea, dived, and emerged a Imndred yards away ; the 
greater number took wing and went flapping across 
the firth slowly, close to the sea ; but a few great fel- 
lows, swollen with fish, merely rolled their long lieada 
from side to side, and sat still on their thrones. 

The wind was now so strong that it would have 
been impossible to carry canvas beating to windward ; 
flying with the wind on our quarter and occasionally 
lowering the peak to the puffs, we got along capitally, 
at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour. IIow the 
bright waves danced and sparkled ! 

" Merrily, merrily bounds the bark. 

On a breeze from the southward free. 
So shoots through the morning .sky the lark, 
Or the swan through the summer sea." 


The sky brightened, partaking of the wind's glad- 
ness. The fleet of fishino; -boats were now runninsr 
swiftly toward the Sound of Mull, at the mouth of 
which the lisjhthouse of Lismore, with the wild ebb- 
tide foaming at its base, stood in bright relief against 
the great Morven mountains. Every boat there, big- 
or small, was bound for the Long Island or Outer 
Hebrides, along the wild shores of which the herring 
were flashing, and one and all, after a month's fishing, 
would follow the mysteriou3 flight of the fish south- 
ward. Noticeable among them was an Isle of Man 
"jigger," running neck and neck with a double lug- 
sailed boat from Newhaven, while west-country 
smacks innumerable lagged behind. There was more 

1^^ THE LAND Oi-' LOliNE. 

pluck and spirit, more calm resolution to fight with 
the great forces of the world, more gentleness of 
heart and strength combined, on board that little 
fleet, than could readily be found in any camp of war. 
There tliey flew, going " as it pleased the breath of 
God !" They passed the dark shores of ]\[ull, they 
shot one by one round the base of the dark caatlo of 
Duart, and they faded, with a last ghostly gleam, in 
the dark shadows that slept tlien, and sleep almost 
always, on the Sound of Mull. 

It had been our original intention to make Oban 
that night, but to do so we should have had to beat 
considerably to windward, and the breeze was too 
strong. AVe were compelled, in despite of our incli- 
nation, to run right after the fishing-boats into the 
Sound of Mull. The wind had already raised a con- 
siderable sea, and we surged forward with the waves 
dashing in white foam behind us, sometimes almost 
breaking into the cockpit where we sat. We were 
soon close under the shadow of Mull, with Kerrera 
far away on our weather quarter, and Duart castle 
drawing every moment nearer and nearer on the ix)rt 
bow. There was no prospect of any first-rate anclior- 
age, short of Tobermory, which was thirty miles away 
up the Sound. True, there were three lochs, with 
tolerable shelter and holding-ground, along the coast 
of Mull, which we were skirting, but the entrances 
were all more or less dangerous — Loch Buy beino- not 
only perilous, but quite unknown to us ; Loch Spelve 
partly known, but always perilous on account of sub- 
merged rocks in a passage only a few yards wide ; and 
Loch Don, exposed to the full force of the sea when 


the wind blow as it was then blowing. In the Sound 
of ]\Iull itself, it was not much better. Duart Bay 
and Craignuro were far too open, Loch Aline could 
not be well entered against the ebb-tide, and Scall- 
astle had one great disadvantage, owing to our igno- 
rance of the rock-sown waters which surround it. 
However, if the wind continued to blow at that rate, 
we should be snug in Tobermory in less than three 

As we flew through the water toward Duart, we 
had a fine view of Mull and its mountains, on th© 
peaks of which the sun was now pouring soft purple 
light. The coasts of the great island, particularly to 
the southward, where they are washed by the Atlan- 
tic, are wild and precipitous, and assume forms only 
less beautiful than the basaltic crags on the northeast 
coast of Skye. Inland, all is dreary and unpictu- 
resque as compared with other smTounding islands. 
Of course, where there are groat hills, with occasional 
moorland lochs and frequent glimpses of the sea-arm 
winding far into the land, there must be beauty, abid- 
ing and ever-varying ; where there is heather, there 
must be glorious color; but, taken comparatively^ 
Mull is uninviting and wearisome, save only to the 
sportsman, who will find its moors tolerably abun- 
dant in wild-fowl of all kinds and its high coitIcs fre- 
quented by the red-deer. 

To our mind, by far the pleasantest picture con- 
nected with Itlull is that of good old Doctor Johnson 
traversing its weary wilds on horseback in company 
with Boswell. " Mr. Boswell thought no part of the 
Highlands equally terrific ;" but the Doctor was lion- 


hearted. If any final proof were wanted that John- 
son had in him the soul of a hero, it is to be found in 
the chronicle of his northern tour. In tlie autumn 
of 1Y73 (after trying in the summer " to learn Dutch^'' 
and being " interrupted by inflammation of the eyes"), 
he set out, an old man of sixty-four, for the Hebrides, 
then deemed almost inaccessible. For week after 
week he faced hardships and dangers unexampled in 
his honest experience ; trudged footsore on endless 
moors, lay half-drowned in the bottom of leaky lligh- 
ifcnd boats, faced the fury of real Highland storms, 
got drunk with mad Highland lairds, and showed at 
every step the patience of a martyr and the pluck of 
a Boldier. His journal is delicious reading, with its 
solemn indifference to barbaric ''scenery," its quaint 
pedantic love for antiquities, its calm tone of intel- 
lectuality, its deep and fervent piety. Bos well's jour- 
nal is still more delightful, full of life and unconscious 
humor, abounding in delicious touches. The glimpses 
of the oracular conduct and conversation are superb. 
Ilow Johnson stood out in the dusky moor at Gle- 
nelg, and abused his faithful follower in such terms 
that " liozzy " couid sleep little the night after — " Dr. 
Johnson's anger had affected me much." How John- 
son drank whisky -toddy in Skye and gave his ideas 
about a seraglio ;* and liow, when a pretty little lady 

* " Thursday, Sept. 10 — After the ladies were gone from table, 
>ve talked of the Highlanders not having sheets : and this led us 
to consider the advantage of wearing linen." 

" JoJtnson — All animal substances are less cleanly than vege- 
table. AVool, of which flannel is made, is an animal substance; 
flannel, therefore, is not so cleanly as linen. I remember 1 used 


eat on his Icnee and kissed him, the old boy " kept her 
on his knee and kissed hei\ while he und she drank 
tea," all the company beini^ much " entertained to see 
him so grave and pleasant." How he had honor 
everywhere, and won love to crown it. How nightly 
he tunied his dear, purblind, gentle face to God, and 
communed with his own soul, as it was his wont to 
do, especially on his birthday.* There are no sweeter 

to think tar dirty ; but when I knew it to bo only a preparation 
of the juice of the pine, I thought Bono longer. It is not dis- 
agreeable to have the gum that oozes from a plum-tree upon your' 
fingers, because it is vegetable ; but if you have any candle- 
grease, any tallow upon your fingers, you are uneasy till you rub 
it off. I have often thought that if I kept a seraglio the ladies 
should all wear linen gowns, or cotton — I mean stuffs made of 
vegetable substances. I would have no silk ; you cannot tell 
when it is clean; it will bo very nasty before it is perceived to be 
eo. Linen detects its own dirtiness." 

" To hear the grave Dr. Samuel Johnson, ' that majestic 
teacher of moral and religious wisdom,' while sitting solemn in 
an arm-chair in the Isle of Skye, talk ex cathedra of his keeping 
a seraglio, and acknowledge that the supposition had often been 
in his thoughts, struck me so forcibly with ludicrous contrast 
that I could not but laugh immoderately. He was too proud to 
submit, even for a moment, to be the object of ridicule, and in- 
stantly retaliated with such keen sarcastic wit, and such a variety 
of degrading images, of every one of which I was the object, 
that though I can bear such attacks as well as most men, I yet 
found myself so much the sport of all the company, that I would 
gladly expunge from my mind every trace of this severe retort." 
— Boswdl's Tour to the Hebrides. 

* The following is among Dr. Johnson's " Prayers and Medi- 
tations" : 

" Taliskkr, in Skye, Sept. 24, 1773. 

"On last Saturday was my sixty-fourth birthday. I might, 
perhaps, have forgotten it, had not Boswcll told me of it ; and. 


bits of literature in the world than these few notes of 
a " Tour to the Hebrides," made in the wild autumn 
season by Boswell and Johnson. 

It was at Loch Buy, the mouth of which wo had 
just passed in the Ocean Queen^ that Johnson met 
" a true Highland laird, rough and haughty, and te- 
nacious of his dignity, who, hearing my name, in- 
quired whether I was of the Johnstons of Glencoe or 
the Johnstons of Ardnamurchan." Johnson and 
Boswell both record the fact, but the former is silent 
about a still more amusing subject. On the morning 

what pleased me less, told the family at Dunvegan. The laat 
year is added to those of which little use has been made ; I tried 
in the summer to learn Dutch, and was interrupted by an inflam- 
mation in my eye. I set out in August on this journey to Skye. 
I lind my memory uncertain, but hope it is only by a life unme- 
thodical and scattered. Of my body I do not perceive that ex- 
ercise or change of air has yet either increased the strength or 
activity. My nights arc still disturbed by flatulences. My hope 
is — for resolution 1 dare no longer call it — to divide my time regu- 
larly, and to keep such a journal of my time aa may give mo 
comfort on reviewing it. But when I consider my age and the 
broken state of my body, I have great reason to fear lest death 
should lay hold upon me while I am only yet designing to live. 
But I have yet hope. 

" Almighty God, most merciful Father, look down upon mo 
with ])ity ! Thou hast protected me in childhood and youth ; 
suj)port me, Lord, in my declining years. Preserve mo from the 
dangers of sinful presumption. Give me, if it be best forme 
stability of purposes and tranquillity of mind. Let the year 
which I have now begun be spent to thy glory, and to the 
furtherance of my salvation. Take not from me thy Holy Spirit, 
but as death approaches prepare me to api>car joyfully in thy 
presence, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." 


after their arrival, Ladj Lochbuj proposed that he 
(the Doctor) shoukl liavc some cold " sheep's head" 
for breakfast. Sir Allan " seemed surprised at hi.-i 
sister's vulgarity ; but," says Boswell, " from a mis- 
chievous love of sport, I took her part, and very 
gravely said, ' I think it is but fair to give him an 
offer of it, and if he does not choose it, he may let it 
alone.' So, when Johnson entered the room, Lady 
Lochbuy said to him, ' Do you take any cold sheep's 
head, sir?' ' No, IMadam !' ho tliundered, in a tone of 
sm-prise and anger." The sequel is perfect, in Bos- 
well's own words : " ' It is here, sir,' said she, suppos- 
ing he had refused it to save the trouble of bringing 
it in. Thus they went on at cross purposes, till he 
confirmed his refusal in a manner not to be misunder- 
stood ; while I sat quietly by, and enjoyed my success." 
Why the good Doctor should have refused a capital 
dish, in such a way, is quite beyond the question. 

We were soon rounding Duart Point, with the 
Lady's Isle and Lismore Lighthouse on our quarter. 
The ordinary Highland tourist has an opportunity of 
seeing this part of the firth upon the deck of his 
steamer, and it is at all times a sight wortli seeing — 
the tides between the Lady's Rock and the Light- 
house causing innumerable whirls, eddies, and counter- 
currents, very similar to those of the Dorus Mhor, and 
of course in rough weather raising a very heavy sea. 
As we passed, all around rock and lighthouse was 
white with foam, save where the eddies whirled the 
surface smooth. Leavins; the boiling sheet behind 
us, we ran into the Sound of Mull ; past Duart Castle 
and Duart i3ay ; past the little village of Craignure 



aild the wood-fringed hills of Scallastle ; past the 
great Highlands '-f Morven, which rose to the right, 
with bluff, red-tinted crags descending eheer into the 
sea ; past Ai'dtornish Castle on its promontory, and 
the tiny entrance to " green Loch Aline's land-locked 
bay" — and bre long we were abreast of the outlying 
rocks and isles of Salen, with Aros Castle looming 
distinct against the sunset, and saw Ben More and 
Bcntalloch, the monarchs of Mull, rise up suddenly 
behind us, darkening as the sunlight faded. Still the 
wind blew on our quarter, and, now in smooth water, 
we rushed along, leaving on our right the parish of 
Morven, with its fine stretches of green land and bushy 
vvood, and on our left the land of Mull, seeming wilder 
and more precipitous the nearer we drew to Tober- 
mory, It was a glorious race. Ere dark we had 
passed several of the fishing fleet, and were fast gain- 
ing on some of the others; and still the breeze kept 
just steady and strong enough for us to carry can- 
vas. Old castles and fantastic headlands faded and 
darkened as we sailed. Picture after picture grew 
and changed. The moon rose as we passed Calve 
Island and swept round to Tobermory Bay ; and here, 
as it was necessary to come close up to the wind, the 
little vessel half-drowned herself in lying over under 
her great sail. Five minutes after, however, the 
anchor was down in the bay, and all parties on board 
the little yacht turned in, thoroughly exhausted with 
the ])leasurc and excitement of the day. 

It is not our purpose to describe Tobermory. To 
our mind, putting aside the excellence of its bay as an 
anchorage, it is simply the ugliest and dreariest place 

THE FlllTll OF LORNE. 113 

in the islands. The climate is detestable, the rainfall 
unceiising, the inns vile, all things abominable. Yet 
this h an migcnerous description, since Tobermory 
commands a fine view of the mouth of that most 
delightful of Highland lakes. Loch Sunart, and of the 
adjoining mountains of Ai'dnamurchan." On the 
present occasion we were anxious to get back to 
Lome as soon as possible. When day broke it was 
raining hard, but to our joy the little wind there was 
came from the west. As we ran out of the bay, the 
dim lights of dawn were dappling the base of the 
hills of Ardnamurchan, and the waters of Sunart 
loomed dark below, with a still gleam of silvery calm 
stretching across the mouth in the neighborhood of 
the black Stirks — two small rocky isles. Mighty 
veils of gray vapor covered the distant mountains, 
save in one distant place to the north, where the dark- 
ness was rent by a moist gleam of light and showed 
the livid peak of some great hill. Behind us, as we 
ran east, the great Ocean loomed, with the slant 
shadows of the rain drawn in long streaks between 
water and cloud, and the sea glittering below like 
dark-blue steel misted with breath. All the heavens 
was clouded, but, in Lachlan's parlance, " she was 
going to be a good day." 

It was a good day, and a long one. The wind 
came and went, shifting between west and west-by- 
south, often failing altogether; and the rain fell, 
more or less, constantly. We made slow work of it, 
though we caiTied our gaff-topsail, and though now 
and then we got a squall which shook and buried the 
boat. By three in the afternoon we were only off the 


mouth of Loch Aline, fifteen miles from our starting- 
place, floating on the slack tide, and liardly malvinj^ 
an inch of way. But, nevertlieless, it was a day to be 
remembered. Xevcr did the Wanderer feast liis 
vision on finer efiects of vapor and cloud ; never did 
ho see the hills possessed with such mystic power and 
meaning. The "grays" were everywhere, of all 
depths, from the dark, slumbei'ous gray of the unbro- 
ken cloud-mass on the hill-top to the silvery gray of 
the innumerable spears of the rain ; and there were 
bits of brown, too, when the light broke out, which 
would have gladdened the inmost soul of a painter. 
One little picture, all in a sort of neutral tint, abides 
in liis memory as lie writes. It was formed by the 
dark silhouette of Ardtornish Castle and promontory, 
with the winter sky rent above it; and a flood of 
white light behind it just reaching the stretch of sea 
at the extremity of the point, and turning it to the 
color of glistening white-lead. That was all; and 
the words convey little or nothing of what the 
Wanderer saw. But the efiect was ethereal in the 
extreme, finer by far than that of any moonlight. 

After we had been becalmed for an hour off the 
Sheep Islands, which lie between Loch Aline and 
Scallasdale, we saw the water blacken far behind us, 
and Lachlan began to whistle up the wind ; but it 
was eight miles off and traveling very slowly, though 
there seemed plenty of it. It was quite another liour 
before it reached us, and then it seemed very unde- 
cided whether to blow on or die ; gaining in vigor, 
however, it took us by fits and starts to within a mile 
of the lighthouse of Lismore ; grew still stronger, and 


took U3 anotlier half mile nearer ; and finally, for no 
reason that we could discover, refused to go with ua 
an inch farther. We were now in the midst of the 
fierce ebb-tide setting from the Lady's Rock, witli the 
waves leaping round us and the eddies wliirling, and 
a roar like thunder in our cars. Then occurred a 
succession of Tantalus-tricks of the most aggravating 
sort. Where t]^e tide boiled there was not a breath of 
wind, and we were whirled backward, this way and 
that, till we again reached the black shadow where 
the wind was blowing. Then the wind, which was 
really strong, drove us again into the tide — which in 
its turn a<2;ain drove us backward. This occurred 
again and again, in spite of all our skill. The breeze 
<^ame on only by inches, though our superstitious 
Lachlan whistled madly. By and by we began 
drifting rapidly up the broad arm of the firth, which 
runs northward between Morvcn and the long green 
ish^nd of Lismore, and only by frantic pulling with 
the long oars did we get out of the way of an ugly 
rock lying half a mile out from the island. By this 
time we were miserably wet and cold — and hungry, 
too, for we had fared scantily. At last, to our joy, a 
breeze came off the Morven shore to reinforce the lazy 
breeze from the sound, and we ran on bravely till we 
got into the full strength of the tide-way just abreast 
of the lighthouse. Here, though the breeze continued, 
we stuck, fairly anchored between wind and tide, and, 
in spite of all the efforts of the helmsman, whirling 
about at the mercy of the elements, with the waves 
leaping round us and the foam leaping over us, and 
the savage water roaring as if to swallow the little 


boat. " Up with the topsail, Lachlan !" It was done, 
and the yacht dived forward a few yards, with her 
bowsprit submerged, and the green waves rolling off 
lier bows. But the wind was yet no match for the 
tide. Now we got forward a short distance ; then we 
swept back in an eddy. An hour passed thus. More 
than once we were swept so uncomfortably near to 
the lighthouse that we had to beat i^p to windward 
with the tide — and then we should have foundered 
indeed, if Lachlan had not been smart in hauling 
down the gaff-topsail. Not for another half hour, 
v/hen the tide began to slacken, did we get through 
the narrow passage, and by that time all on board 
were dripping from head to foot; and the little yacht, 
hull and sail, was bathed in salt water. Do you 
wonder that our fii-st act, on reaching the smooth 
water of the firth, was to get out the whisky-bottie 
and serve round the glorious spirit with no niggard 

Out in the open firth the breeze was slack and 
fitful, but we crept slowly over toward Oban, the 
white smoke of which was visible seven miles away 
between the north end of Kcrrera and the woody prom- 
ontory of Dunollie. Northward, we saw the long 
dark arm of Loch Linnhe — here and there dotted with 
isles and rocks — closed in suddenly where the house 
of Airds gleamed like a wreath of snow in the midst 
of its woody bay, and surrounded on all sides by 
mountains slowly darkening in twilight. Dim and 
melancholy loomed Dunstaffnage to the east, with 
Ben Cruachan and the Shepherds of Loch Etive 
blackening behind her. Far southward, off Kerrera, 


ttoro was already a ghostly gleam on the ocean, cast 
by the invisible moon. 

But if wo looked for moonlight wo were doomed 
to disappointment. When we had reached the center 
of the firth it was quite dark ; and, to add to our 
troubles, the wind had died entirely away, as is its 
wont on many summer nights, when dead calm lasts 
from evening to dawn. There was nothinc^ for it but 
to put out the long oars, and pull the little yacht 
toward the anchorage, five miles distant. Laclilan 
worked one oar manfully, singing a monotonous 
Gaelic chant peculiar to him, while the Wanderer 
labored at the other. As the mist and darkness 
deepened, it became impossible to tell what progress 
was being made. Gradually, moreover, the whole 
land changed its form, and it became uncertain where 
lay the narrow entrance to Oban Bay. He who has 
never been afloat on such a night, off such a coast as 
that of Lome, can scarcely conceive how mysteriously it 
seems to change, eluding the knowledge of the most 
experienced pilots. Clouds seem mountains ; shadows, 
islands ; islands, shadows ; all is ghostly and con- 
fused. For a long time we were steering by what 
seemed the Maiden Island, which lies at the mouth of 
the entrance to Oban, but we found presently that we 
had been looking at a solid bank of mist sleeping in 
the silent sea. At last, we found ourselves in the 
shadow of Kerrera, but Kerrera is six miles long, and 
we knew not what part of the island we were approach- 
ing; so that at any moment we might strike one 
of those rocks and reefs with which its shores are 
sown. It therefore became expedient to let tho 



yacht lie off, wliile the Wanderer rowed in the punt 
toward the land and tried to make out tlie bearings 
of the coast. A few strokes of the paddles, and he 
was alone in the solid black shadow — literally "dark- 
ness visible" — of the island. He rowed on for some 
minutes, and then leant on his oars to reconnoiter. 
The darkness was awful, the stillness was deathlike, 
broken only by the wash of the fathomless water, 
and the dreary moan of the sea-birds roosting on 
tlie isles. Once or twice the curlew uttered, far off 
in the night, his weird, melancholy whistle, as he 
flew from one ghostly bay to another ; but neither 
by sight nor sound could the Wanderer discover his 
precise whereabouts. The more he rowed, the more 
the land changed shape and receded. All was mys- 
terious darkness. In sheer despair, he turned back 
toward the yacht, which was lost in the glQom. 
He shouted. The cliffs moaned an answer ; and 
a sea-gull screamed. lie shouted again and again. 
At last, faint and far away, he heard another voice 
crying ; and so guided, he at last got on board the 

Not for hours after, when the atmosphere became 
somewhat clearer, did we succeed in making out the 
ehapc of the land, and when we did so, we found we 
had drifted far down Iverrera, and were not a hun- 
dred yards from one of the worst outlying reefs. It 
was weary work pulling along the dark coast of the 
island. By the time we got to our anchorage dawn 
was breaking ; and just as we hauled down our sails, 
a fresh morning breeze sprang up and whistled merri- 
ly in the rigging. 


During tliG little voyage that has just been re- 
corded, the Ocean Queen had behaved tolerably, for 
the Bimple reason that she had no chance of show- 
ing her worst qualities, namely, crankness under 
canvas and awkwardness in " comin<i; round." On 
other occasions she fully justified her soubriquet 
of the Coffin. "Whenever the wind blew hard, she 
could not carry a rag of canvas " beating ;" and when 
squalls came, it was a miracle she floated at all, so 
wildly did she heel over and ship the green water. 
She was certainly a prize for any used-up person in 
search of a new sensation. Then, again, her clumsi- 
ness occasioned other perils. Twice, in the tideway 
off the mouth of Loch Etive, she was nearly swept to 
destruction because she would not answer the helm. 
Once, she was driven like a straw past the great rock 
at the mouth of Loch Aline, actually scraping the 
weeds thereon, and only escaping by an inch."'^ In 
short, she supplied the owner's system with a series 
of gratuitous galvanic shocks, which a very dar- 
ing person might have deemed pleasant excite- 
ment, but which to the Wanderer's mind was any- 
thinor but delijxhtful. Even a soldier in war-time is 
not always under fire, or he would soon sicken and 
grow weary ; but in the Ocean Queen we were ever 

* The worst of these sharp boats is this : if they do take the 
ground, whether running on a sandbank or striking on a reef, 
they liccl over and fill at once, in spite of all your efforts to save 
them ; and, in nine cases out of ten, " legs " (or wooden props for 
the sides) are quite useless. Now, a broad-bottomed fishing-boat 
sits on a rock or mudbank as snugly as a bird, provided she does 
not fill, and can wait for the next tide to float her off into deep 


more or less in peril, all tlio ferocious el omenta beinpf 
leairued airainst a cockshell. 

Not without great reluctance, however, did the 
Wanderer part with the Ocean Queen. Crank and 
fitful as she was, frequently as she had put his life in 
danger, he had learned to regard her with affection. 
How many a glorious scene he had beheld from tliat 
little cockpit ! how many a golden day he had wasted, 
stretched full length on that narrow deck ! With all 
her faults, the little yacht was beautiful to look upon, 
and very snug for her tonnage. 

But vv^hen the little Tern came in her place, the 
fickleness of man's heart was proven, for the old love 
was gone in a moment, and the new love took its 
place. The Tern v/as two tons smaller, and belon^^ed 
to the same family — being a racer which had won 
several prizes ; but she had far better " bearings," be- 
ing much shorter in proportion to her beam. She, 
too, was of course a toy ; a mere little wind-straw of a 
boat, though destined to weather many a storm that 
tried bigger vessels. In her tiny cabin, where it was 
impossible to sit upright, we were to sleep for manj 
months, while exploring the strange shores of the 
Hebrides, from Lome to the Long Island. Lachlan 
Finlay went back to his shop, there to resume his old 
occupation of sitting on a sack and whittling sticks ; 
and in his place, when the little Terii was ready for 
sailing, her tiny cabin well stocked with all the nec- 
essaries for a long cruise, Hamish Shaw, the pilot, 
came from his fishing in the Firth of Clyde and 
swung up his hammock in the forecastle, just as the 
cuckoos were swarming over every hill in Lome. 



THE "tern's" FIIiST FLIGHT. 

The Urn Afloat — Off Ardnamurchan— First Glimpses of the Islos— Tha 
Cuchullia Hills— Gonoral Rolbctions— Flashing Forward — Tlio Partjon 
Board — The Scaur of Eig— lium — Birds of tlio Ocean — Muck — Sunset on 
the Waters— Loch Scresort, Rum— The Gaelic Skipper — The Widow — A 
CUmb among the Peaks — View of the Western Ocean from Rum — Tho 
Tern weighing Anchor — Kihnory Bay — First View of Canna — At Anchor. 

When the little cutter Tern, agile and beautiful as 
the sea-swallow from which she takes her name, 
weighed anchor in Tobermory Harbor, and began to 
work westward through the Sound of Mull toward 
Ardnamurchan, the long; swell comino- in from the 

Jo O 

Atlantic was beirinnin"; to whiten under a stiff breeze 
from the northwest ; and it became a question wheth- 
er or not she should fold down her wings and run 
back to her nest in the baj. 

We looked wistfully to windward, and began to 
doubt our wisdom in venturing so far on board so tiny 
a craft — seven tons register, open " aft," and rigged 
witli a heavy boom and racing mainsail sure to bring 
her on her broadside in stormy weather. The gloomy 
prognostics of both fair-weather yachtsmen and hard- 
weather seamen were sharply remembered, as the big 
rollers began to break wildly over our weather-bow, 
and the strong wind to lay the decks under to the very 
edge of the cockpit " combing." But the Viking in 


the blood prevailed. A third reef was taken in the 
mainsail, and the little craft was urged on; and 
scarcely had she beaten two miles and a half to wind- 
w^ard, when the breeze died suddenly away, and the 
waters, washing troublously, grew weaker and weaker, 
till the tops of the long heaving rollers were almost 
calm. A light air and a strong tide soon carried the 
Tern outside of Ardnamurchan, where, dripping and 
quivering like a thing of life, she has paused nearly 
becalmed, with the lonely islands whither she is bound 
opening one by one on the dim and shadowy sea. 

To the south lies Mull in mist, piling her dull, vast 
hills out above the line of breaking foam ; while away 
to the southwest, cairn after cairn, looming through 
the waters, show where barren Coll is weltering in the 
gloomy waste. To the far west, only cloud resting on 
cloud, above the dim, unbroken water-line of the 
Atlantic. But northward all brightens, for the storm 
has passed thence with the wind, and the sunlight has 
crept out cold and clear on craggy Rum, whose 
heights stretch gray and ghostly against a cloudless 
«ky. Hard by, in shadow, looms the gigantic Scaur 
of Eig, looking down on the low and grassy line of 

" Set as an emerald in the casing eea." 

JBeyond all these, peeping between Rum and Eig, 
penciled in faint and ghostly peaks, hued like the 
heron's breast, are the wondrous Cuchullin Hills of 
Skye — bom of the volcano on some strange morning 
in the age of mighty births. The eye seeks to go on 
farther. It rests on those Btill heights, and in a 
moment the perfect sense of solitude glides into the 


soul; thought Hocrns stationary, brooding over life 

For a sight such as that words are the merest 
pencil-scratches, and for the feeling awakened by such 
sights there is no kind of symbol at all. In trying 
accurately to describe nature, one glides at once into 
the mood of the cicerone ; for the moment of enjoy- 
ment has past, and the pain of explanation has begun. 
The still power of waters is not quite to be felt until 
the very body and blood have known their stormy 
might ; and how better know their might than by 
slipping out upon the waste in as tiny a vessel as can 
live thereon ? The smaller the craft, the fewer the 
fellow-beings at hand, the intenser the enjoyment both 
of storm and calm. It is a proud pleasure to dash like 
a soa-fowl under the very mouth of the tempest, con- 
scious of the life in one's veins, drunken as it were 
with the excitement and uncertainty of the hour — 
awake to every quiver of the little yielding creature 
under the wings of which you fly, feeling its panting 
breath come and go with your own, till, perchance, it& 
wings are folded down close, and it swims with you 
for very life before the elements which follow scream- 
ing in its track. After a flight so fine, the soul is. 
ready for strange, calm waters and melancholy peaks^ 
fit to feel the pathos and sweetness of things at rest, 
ending with that dim, pathetic tremble, amid which we 
seem to feel God's shadow in our souls. In this life, 
and perhaps in lives beyond, there seems need of some 
such preparation for great spiritual peace ; and it is 
therefore a poor soul which has not felt some verj 
rough weather. 


The British lover of beauty wanders far, but we 
question if he finds anywhere a picture more exquisite 
tlian opens out, vista after vista, among these wondrous 
Isles of the North. Here, year after year, they lie 
almost neglected, seen only by the hard-eyed trader 
and the drifting seaman ; for that mosaic being, 
the typical tom"ist, seldom quits the inner chain of 
mainland lakes, save, perhaps, when a solitary " Satur- 
day Reviewer " oozes dull and bored out of the mist 
at Broadford or Portree, takes a rapid glare at the 
chilly Cucliullins, and, shivering with enthusiasm, 
hurries back to the south. The heights of Rum, the 
kelp-caverns of Islay, tlie fantastic clifik of Eig, scarce- 
ly ever draw the sight-seer ; Canna lies unvisited in 
the solitary sea; and as for the Outer Hebrides — 
from Stomoway to Barra Head — they dwell ever 
lonely in a mist, warning off all fair-weather wander- 
ers. A little, a very little, has been said about tliese 
isles ; but to all ordinary people they are less familiar 
than Cairo, and farther off than Calcutta. 

Forbidding in their stern beauty, isolated and sea- 
surrounded, they possess no superficial fascinations; 
their power is one that grows ; their spell is that of the 
glamour, liolding only the slowly-selected soul. Not 
merely because these isles are so strangely, darkly 
lovely, but because we owe to them so much that is 
noblest and best in the heart of our modern life, did it 
seem fitting to attempt some faint pictures of their 
scenery and their people ; and to wander from island 
to island, mixing freely with poor folk, seeing and 
noting what may afterward pass into noble nourish- 


ment for the heart, is the errand of those oti board the 

little To^. 

" For many a tale 
Traditionary round the mountains Inin/^, 
And many a legend, peopling tlic dark woods." 

As the eye became more and more accustomed to hill 
and sea, as the first mood of awe and pleasiire at the 
■weird vistas wore away, human figures, group after 
group, before invisible, loomed slowly into view ; the 
kelp-burner moving blaclcly through the smoke of his 
fire on the savage shore ; the herrin-fishers tossing 
at their nets, while the midnight sea gleams phospho- 
rescent below and the clouds blacken in the lift above ; 
the wild, wandering women, foul with the fish they 
are gutting, shrieking like the cloud of gulls that 
hovers over their heads; the quaint country-folk 
streaming down the little ports on holidays and fair- 
days ; the shepherd on his hill ; the lobster-fisher in 
the quiet bay ; the matron grinding her corn and 
weaving her petticoat with instruments hundreds of 
years " behind the age " — and all these moving against 
BO mighty a background, and speaking a speech 
Btranger to common ear than any modern tongue of 
Europe — a speech old as the hills and full of their 
mysterious music and power. Here surely was some- 
tliing for the eye and heart to rest upon, a life subtly 
coloring ours through many generations, yet preserved 
quite fresh and unchanged by the spirit of the waters — 
a life far more surely part of us and om*s than that of 
Florence, or Paris, or Wiesbaden. 

To lie becalmed in the little Tern off the terrible 
Rhu, the Aj-dnamurchan, most di-eaded by those best 


acquainted with Ita mighty tides and fierce waters, 
is by no means an unmixed pleasure. Yonder stretches 
the ocean, dead-still now, but likely to be roused in an 
instant into frenzy ; and, even more to be dreaded, 
half a mile on the starboard bow, the gloomy clifis of 
the ])oint seem coming nearer, as the fitful eddies of 
the tide swing the vessel this way and that. Out go 
the long oars, and slowly, very slowly, the Tern draws 
from the shore. Two long hours of hard pulling, with 
scarcely any perce])tible progress, is not altogether 
desirable, even in the presence of a scene so fair ; and 
one whistles for the wind more and more impatiently. 
At last the waters ripple black to the northward, the 
hugh mainsail-boom swings over with a heavy jerk, 
and in a minute the Tern flashes ahead, full of new 
life, and the sky brightens over a fresh and sparkling 
sea, and, with hearts leaping, all canvas set, and the 
little kittiwakes screaming in our track, we leave the 
mighty Rhu behind. 

We are four — the skipper, the pilot, the Wanderer, 
and the cook — only the seaman being a sailor by pro- 
fession. The skipper, to describe him briefly, is a wild, 
hirsute being, generally inclined (as Walt Whitman 
puts it) to " loafe and invite his soul." The pilot is 
of another turn, a Gaelic fisher, deep in knowledge of 
small craft, and full of the dreamy reasonings of his 
race. As for the Wanderer — 

" A subtle-souled psychologist. 
All things he seemed to understand, 
Of old or new, or eea or land, 
But bis own mind — which was a mist ; " 

in other words, he is a nondescript, a mooner on the 


skirts of philosophy, whose business it is to take notes 
by flood and fell, and cater for the kitchen with rod 
and gun. What he provides is prepared to perfection 
by the cook, in a den about the size of an ordinary 
cupboard, and served up in a cabin where Tom 
Thumb might have stood upright, and a shortish man 
have just lain at full length. Over the sleeping ac- 
commodation let us draw a veil. 

As the Tern flies nearer to the mighty Scaur of 
Eig, a beetling precipice, towering 1300 and odd feet 
above the sea, the sun is sloping far down westward 
behind the lofty peaks of Rum ; and in deep, purple 
shadow, over the starboard bow, the rugged lines of 
the mainland, from Loch Moidart to the Sound of 
Sleat, open up, gloam strangely, and fade, ridge after 
ridge, away. The distant Cuchullins grow yet more 
ghostly against the delicate harebell of the sky, 
catching on their peaks the roseate tints of sunset ; 
and the mountains of Rum deepen more and more in 
under-shadow, as the light flames keener on their 
rounded heights. The wind falls again, faint aira 
come and go, and the low sound of the sea becomes 
full of a strange hush. At such an hour, one remem- 
bers with a chill shiver the terrible story of the Cave 
of Eig. In the old bloody days, the inhabitants had 
given dire offense to the Macleods, and the chief came 
over, with all his clan at his heels, to butcher the 
offenders. But not a soul was visible — only the white 
snow ; for it was winter-time. Every inhabitant — ■ 
man, woman, and child — had taken refuge in the 
great cave. The Macleods were about to return to 
their boats when they discovered footprints in the 


Bnow. Tracing these, they came to the month of the 
great cave. Then, with a devilish ingenuity, the 
cruel chief ordered a great fire of turf and fern to be 
lit at the mouth of the cavern. There was no escape; 
all the poor shrieking folk were suffocated. This is 
no mere legend, but horrible truth. Until very re- 
cently, the cave was full of human bones, and some 
remain still, though the busy hands of visitors have 
carried off the most perfect remains. " Something 
ails it now — the place is curst 1 " One sees and hears 
it all — the flame shining lurid in the white snow, the 
black, smoky cloud at the moutli of the cave, the 
grimly-grinning caterans piling up the fire with wild 
yells, and the wild shrieks of the murdered floating 
out upon the winter wind ! 

" On Scooreigg next a warning light 
Summoned licr warriors to the fight ; 
A numerous race, ere stern Macleod 
O'er their bleak shores in vengeance strode I 
When all in vain the ocean-cave 
Its refuge to its victims gave. 
The chief, relentless in his wrath. 
With blazing heath blockades the path r 
In dense and stifling volumes rolled, 
The vapor filled the caverncd hold I 
The warrior-threat, the infant's plain. 
The mother's scream, were heard in vain ; 
The vengeful chief maintains his fires. 
Till in the vault a tribe expires ! 
The bcncs which strew that cavern's gloom, 
Too well attest their dismal doom." 

As we draw close under the lee of Rum, the still 
Bea is darkened on every side with patches as of drift- 
ing Bea-weed, and there is a still flutter as of innume- 


rablo little wings. Hither and thither, skimming the 
water in flocks of eight or ten, dart the beautiful 
Bliearwatcrs {p^ijjini Angtorum of the ornithologists), 
seizing their prey from the sea with their tender feet 
as they fly ; while under them, wherever the eye rests, 
innimierablc marrots and guillemots float, dive, and 
rise. All these have their nests among the purple- 
shaded clifl's close at hand. The black and green cor- 
morants are there too, wary and solitary; and th& 
gulls, from the lesser black-backed to the little kitti- 
wake, gather thickly over one dark patch of floating 
birds astern, where, doubtless, the tiny herring are 
darting in myriads. Save for the fitful cry of the 
kittiwakes, or the dull, croaking scream of a solitary 
tern beating up and down over the vessel, all is 
quite still, and the presence of these countless little 
fishers only deepens the solitude. Quite fearless and 
■unsuspicious, they float within oar's length of the ves- 
eel, diving swiftly at the last moment, and coolly 
emerging again a few yards distant. Only the cor- 
morant keeps aloof, safe out of gun range. Kank 
and unsavory as this glutton is, his flesh is esteemed 
by fishermen, and he is so often hunted that he ia 
ever on the watch for danger. 

Low, undulating, grassy, yonder is Muck — the 
Gaelic Eilan-na-Muchel, or Isle of Swine — Buchanan's 
Lxsula Porcoinim. It is green and fertile, an oasis in 
the waste. Muck, Eig, Rum, and Canna form col- 
lectively the Parish of Small Isles, with the pastor of 
which Hugh Miller took his well-known geologic 
cruise. It must be no lamb-hearted man who carries 
the gospel over these waters during winter weather. 


Lower, deeper sinks the sun, till he is totally hid- 
den heliind the hills. Haskeval and Haleval, the two 
liif^hest peaks of Eum, throw their shadows over the 
drifting 7e;vi, while from some solitary bay inland 
the oyster-catchers and sealarks whistle in the still- 
ness. A night mist coming from the west deepens 
the gloaming, and we look rather anxiously after a 
harbor. Somewhere, not far away, below the two 
peaks, lies a little loch, with safe anchorage ', but no 
eyes, except those of a native, could pick it out in the 
darkness. We drift slowly upward on the flood-tide, 
eagerly eyeing every nook and cranny in the shadowy 
mass at our side. Just as the day dawns, we spy the 
mouth of the loch, and launching the long oars, make 
wearily toward it ; but the anchor is soon down, all 
cares are over for the time being, and, after pipes and 
grog, all hands turn in for a nap. 

Our slumbers are sweet, though short, and ere long 
we are up on deck, looking around on Loch Scresort. 
Yiewed in the soft, sparkling light of a windless sum- 
mer morning, it is as sweet a little nook as ever 
Ulysses mooned away a day in, during his memorable 
voyage homeward. Though merely a small bay, about 
a mile in breadth, and curving inland for a mile and a 
half, it is quite sheltered from all winds, save the east, 
being flanked to the south and west by Haskeval and 
Ilondeval, and guarded on the northern side by a low 
range of heathery slopes. In this sunny time the 
sheep are bleating from the shores, the yacht lies 
double — yacht and shadow — and the still bay is paint- 
ed richly with the clear reflection of the mountains : 


" Not a feature of tho hills 
Is in the mirror slighted." 

On the northern point of tlic loch, where the old red 
sandatono is piled in toni, fantastic heaps high over 
the sea, gulls innumerable sit and bask. " Croak 1 
croak ! " cries the monstrous-hooded crow at their 
backs, perched like an evil spirit on the very head of 
the cliffs, and squinting fiercely at the far-off sheep. 
A bee drones drowsily past the yacht, completing the 
sense of stillness and pastoral life. 

Scattered along the southern side of the bay are a 
few poor cottages, rudely built of stone and roofed 
with peat turfs, and at the head of the loch is a com- 
fortable, whitewashed house, the abode of Captain 
Macleod of Dunvegan, the tenant of tho island. 
There is, moreover, a rude stone pier, where a small 
vessel might lie secure in any weather, and off which 
a battered old briirantino is even now unioadinpc oat- 
meal and flour. Casting loose the punt, we row over 
to the vessel, and begin to chat with the shrewd-look- 
ing ancient skipper, who is superintending the passage 
of the sacks into a skiff alongside. In that extra- 
ordinary dialect called Gaelic-English, which may be 
described as a wild mingling of Gaelic, bad Irish, and 
Lowland Scotch, he gives us to understand that he is 
at once the owner and master of his craft, and that he 
cruises from island to island d urine; the summer, 
bartering his cargo of food for whatever marketablo 
commodities the poor folk of the place may have pre- 
pared. His great trade is with the fishers, who pay 
him in dried fish, chiefly ling and cod ; but all is fish 
that comes to his net, and can be anyhow cashed in 


the soutli. Doubtless, tlie odds of the bargains are 
quite on his side. In answer to our queries as to the 
general condition of the islanders, he shakes his gray 
head dismally, and gives us to understand that but 
fur him, and for such as he, many a poor household 
would jjerish of starvation. 

Starvation, however, does not seem the order of the 
day in Loch Scresort. On landing, and making for 
the first hut at hand, we find the cow, with her calf 
by her side, tethered a few yards from the dwelling, 
two pigs wallowing in the peat-raire close by, and at 
least a dozen cocks, hens, and chickens, running to 
and fro across the threshold, where a fi-esh, well-fed 
matron, with a smile for the stranger, salutes us in 
the Gaelic speech. With that fine old grace of hos- 
pitality which has fled forever from busier scenes, she 
leads us into her cottage — a " but " and a " ben." The 
apartment into which we are shown, despite the damp 
earthen floor and mildewy wall, is quite a palace for 
the Highlands; for it has a wooden ])rcss bed, wooden 
chairs and table, and a rude cupboard, shapen like a 
wardrobe ; and the walls are adorned, moreover, by a 
penny almanac and a picture cut out of the " Illustra- 
ted London News." Drink fit for the gods is speedily 
handed round, in the shape of foaming bowls of new 
milk fresh from the udder — a cup of welcome invaria- 
bly offered to the traveler in any Highland dwelling 
tliat can afford it. A few friendly words warm up 
the good woman's heart, and she begins to prattle 
and to question. She is a childless widow, and licr 
"man" was drowned. She dwells here all alone; 
for all her relatives have emigrated to Canada, where 


sho hopes pomo day to join tlicin. On hearini^ that 
we have passed through Ghisgow, she asks eagerly if 
■we know a woman called Maggie, who sells eggs ; the 
woman's surname slie does not remember, but we 
must have noticed her, as slie is splay-footed and has 
red hair. She has never been farther south than Eig, 
and hence her notion of big cities. She longs very- 
much to see Tobermory and its great shops — also to 
look up a distant kinsman, who has flourished there 
in trade. She tells us much of the laird and his fam- 
ily — the "folk in the big house;" they arc decent, 
pious people, and kind to the poor. Will she sell ua 
some eggs ? Well, she has not heard the price of eggs 
this season, but will let us have some at fivepence a 
dozen. She loads the pilot with a basketful of mon- 
Btei-s, and we go on our way rejoicing. 

Casting our eyes up the hill as we leave the cot- 
tage, we meet a pair of steadfast eyes regarding us 
over a knoll a few yards distant; and lo ! the head 
and antlers of a noble stac;, a veritable red deer from 
the peaks, lie has wandered down to prey upon the 
little patch of corn, from which the widow with diffi- 
cnlty drives him and his mates many times in the day. 
A royal fellow 1 Conscious of his immunity, he stares 
coolly at us with his soft yet powerful eyes. We 
approach nearer — ^he does not move — a pistol-shot 
would stretch him low; but suddenly espying our 
retriever, who has lingered behind, lapping up some 
spilt milk, he tosses his head disdainfully, and turns 
to go. As Schneider, the dog, runs toward him, he 
breaks into a trot, then bounds suddenly over a 
boulder, and is off at full speed. The dog pursues 


him eap;erly, but tlio fleet-footed one speeds silentlj 
away, floating lightly upward to the heights, and 
leaving his panting pursuer far behind. 

But the eye, following him upward, rests on the 
peaks, and is sublimed by a sudden sense of tho 
silences broken only by the red deer's splash in some 
dark tarn. Fading gradually upward from deep 
green to ashen gray, mingling softly into the white 
little cloud that poises itself on the highest peak 
of all, the mountains lie in tho crystalline air of 
a hazeless summer day. Every rock comes out 
clear, every stream shows its intense white seam 
against the hillside, and the knolls of crimson 
heather in the foreground seem visible to the tini- 
est leaf. 

The temptation is too great, and we arc soon 
vigorously facing the lesser range of heights. On 
all the knolls around us the white caima-grass waves 
in the wind, and the yellow iris peeps among the 
green twigs of under-grass, and in the hollows hero, 
where the peat is cut and piled for drying, we stop 
and pluck bog-asphodel. Higher we speed, knee- 
deep now in the purple heather — from which tho 
dog scares moor fowl under our very feet. The air 
rarefies, full, as it were, of holier, deeper breath. 
The deep red of the heather dies away into brown 
and green, and yet a few paces farther, only green 
herbage carpets the way — boulders thicken, the hilL 
side grows still more steep, till at last, quite breathlea.. 
with exercise and the sharp fine air, we get amon^ 
the graystone clifife and the hugely-piled boulders of 
the peaks. 


The grout, glorious world lica around and beneath 
us — mountains, crags, and their shadows in a violet 
sea. Close at hand, to the northward, see Canna, with 
her grim shark's teeth of outlying rock jutting up 
here and there, far out in the westward ocean ; and 
behind her tower the Cuchullin Ilills of Skyc, sharp- 
ening into peak on peak, blue mists brooding on their 
base, but all above snowed over with livid layers of 
hypersthene, and seamed with the black-forked bed 
of torrents tliat in wild weather twist down like 
lightning to the hidden lakes below. 

Far down westward on the ocean there is a long 
low line, as of cloud, on tlie horizon. That is the 
Outer Hebrides, our Ultima Tliule. The low levels 
are veiled by distance, but the hills and promon- 
tories — now a dull headland, beyond a stretch 
of highland — loom here and there through the 
mist — 

" The dreamy grief of tlio gray sea." 

With a feeling distantly akin to that of the old 
wanderers of the waters, gazing from their frail 
barks at the cloud of unexplored demesne, we eye 
our distant quarry. A far flight for the tiny Tem^ 
on seas so great and strange ! Weary with a long- 
reaching gaze, our eye drops downward on the western 
side of the isle whereon we stand. The low, grassy 
:swell of the Minch breaks in one thin, creamy line 
against that awful coast — a long range washed into 
cliffs and precipices, and unbroken by a single haven 
or peaceful creek. When the mists and vapors 
gather here, and the southwester comes pouring in 
upon these shores, and the sea rises and roars as it 


can roar only on rocky coasts, many a brave ship 
goes to pieces yonder. There is then no hope on 
tliia side of time. Kot a soul is there to lock on 
from the land, and he who drifts living as far as the 
Bhore is dashed to pieces on its jagged wall. There 
is no pause, no suspense. A crash, a shriek, and noth- 
ing remains but spindrift and splintering planks. . 

After a long ram'jlc, we regain our punt, and are 
soon busy hoisting sail on board the yacht, for a fresh 
breeze has sprung up, which should waft us swiftly 
on to Canna. Up goes the Tern's white wings, and 
we fly buoyantly away, tlie faint scent of honcys^ucJde 
floating from the rocks as we round the jagged point 
of the bay. It is the last farewell of Loch Scresort — 
the last, sweet breath of a sweet place. The sun 
shines, the spray sparkles, and with happy hearts and 
backward-looking eyes we speed along on the joyful, 
gentle sea. 

The breeze stiffens, blowing on our quarter, and 
the little Tern^ though she carries a double reef in 
tlie mainsail, has soon about as much as she can bear; 
but cheerily she foams through it, veritably " like a 
thing of life," fearless, eager, quivering through every 
fibre with the salt fierce play — now dipping with a. 
Btealthy motion into the green hollow of the waves, 
then rising, shivering on their crest, and glancing 
this way and that like a startled bird ; drifting side- 
long for a moment as if wounded and faint, with 
the tip of lier white wing trailing in the water, and 
again, at the wind's whistle, springing up and on- 
ward, and tilting the foam from her breast in showers, 
of silver spray. 

THE tehn's first flight. 137 

Though the breeze is so keen, there is neither mist 
nor rain. Far away yonder to the west, a slight gray 
Btrealv Iiovereovcr the clear sea-line — and from thence, 
as from the out-pursed lip of a god, the invisible wind 
is blown. All is fresh and clear — the peaks of Hum, 
the far-off mainland — all save the white Cuehullins, 
which have suddenly clothed themselves with their 
own smokes and vapors, through which they loom at 
intervals, Titan-like and forlorn. From the blank, 
stony stare of hills so ghostly in their beauty, yet so 
human in their desolation, one turns to look at Kil- 
mory Bay, which opens before us as we round the 
northern shores of Rum. It is a little space of shing- 
ly sand, yellow and white and glistening, slipped in 
between grim crags and under the shadow of the 
mountains. The thin cream line of foam stirs not 
on its edge, as the deep soft billows roll inward and 
lessen over shallows. Above, on the slope of the hill, 
there are stretches of grassy mead as green as any in 
Kent, and cattle grazing thereon ; and still liigher, the 
heights of heather die away into hues of gray moss 
and lichen, till the stony peaks are penciled grimly on 
the quiet azure of the sky. 

Canna is now in full view. The " castled steep," 
as Scott calls its high cliff, towers in deep brown 
shadow, surrounded by green heights of pasture, while 
below is one long line of torn crags and caves, in the 
lee of which, on a stretch of nearly calm sea, the gulls 
and guillemots gather, and the solan goose drops like 
a stone to its prey. The breeze now strikes nearly 
dead ahead, and the Tern has a sore struggle of it 
beating onward. Not until she is close in upon the 


jagged cliffs docs the narrow entry into the harbor 
open, and it is a difficult job, indeed, to pick our way 
through the rocks, in the teeth of wind so keen ; but 
directly we round the comer of the cliffs, the little 
landlocked bay opens safe and calm, and, gliding into 
fivc-fathoni water, we cast anchor just oj^posite the 
laird's house. 




Tlio Laird of Canna— Ilia Kingly Power— Prosperity of the State— The 
Island— The Old Tower— Canna iu Storm and in Calm— The Milking— 
Twilight — A Poem by Davy Gray— Haunts of the Ocean Birds- Whis- 
pers from the Sea- The Canna People— The Quiet Life— The Graveyard 
on the Hillside. 

The Laird of Canna might fitly be styled it3 king ; 
for over that lonely domain he exercises quite regal au- 
thority, and he is luckier in one respect than most 
monarchs — he keeps all the cash. His subjects nmn- 
ber four-score — men, women, and children. Some 
till his land, some herd his sheep. For him the long- 
line fishers row along the stormy coasts of Rum , for 
him the wild boore batter out the brains of seals on 
the neighboring rocks of Haskeir ; the flocks on the 
crags are his, and the two smacks in the bay ; every 
roof and tenement for man or beast pays him rent of 
some sort. The solid modern building, surrounded 
by the civilized brick wall, is his palace — a recent 
erection, strangely out of keeping with the rude cabins 
and heather houses in the vicinity. Yet the Laird of 
Canna is not proud. He toiled hard with his hands 
long before the stroke of good fortune which made 
him the heritor of the isle, and even now he commuixes 
freely with the lowest subject, and is not above board- 
ins: a trading-vessel in the bay in his shirt-sleeves. A 


Blirewd, active, broad-shouldered man is the laird, still 
young, and as active as a goat. Though he sits late 
at night among his books, he is up with the grayest 
dawn to look after his fields. You meet him every- 
where over tlie island, mounted royally on his sturdy 
little sheltie, and gazing around him with a face which 
says plainly, 

" I am monarch of all I survey ; 
My right there is none to dispute." 

But at times he sails far away southward, in his own 
boats, speculating with the shrewdest, and surely 
keeping his own. In the midst of his happy sway he 
has a fine smile and a kindly heart for the stranger, 
as we can testify. The great can afford to be gener- 
ous, though, of course, if greatness were to be meas- 
ured by mere amount of income, the laird, though a 
" warm " man, would have to be ranked among the 
lowly. He has in abundance what all the Stuarts 
tried in vain to feel — the perfect sense of solitary 

Think of it — dreamer, power-hunter, piner after 
the Napoleonic ! A fertile island, a simple people, 
sliips and flocks all j^our own, and all set solitary and 
inviolate in the great sea ; for how much less have 
throats been cut, hearths desolated, even nations 
ruined 1 There is no show, no bunkum, no flash- 
jewelry of power, but veritable power itself. In old 
days, there would have been the gleaming of tartans, 
the flashing of swords, the sound of wassail, the inton- 
ing of the skald , but now, instead, we have the genu- 
ine modem article — a monarch of a speculative turn, 
transacting business in his shirt-sleeves. The realm 


flourishes, too. Each cotter or slieplierd pays his rent 
in hibor, and is permitted a plot of ground to giow 
potatoes and graze a cow. The fishermen are sup- 
ported in the same way. Both sexes toil out of doora 
at the crops, and take part in the shearing, but the 
women have plenty of time to watch the cow and 
weave homespun on their rude looms. All on tho 
isle, excepting only the laird himself, belong to tho old 
Komish faith, even the laird's own wife and children 
beinii; Catholics. There is no bickering;, civil or relicr- 
ious. The supreme head of the state is universally 
popular, and })raised for his thoughtfulness and gene- 
rosity — a cingle example of which is as good as a hun- 
dred. It is said to be the custom of many Highland 
proprietors, notably those ()f Islay, to levy a rent on 
those who burn tho seaweeds and tansiles on their 
shore, charging the poor makers about a pound on 
every ton of kelp so produced. Not so the Laird of 
Canna. " lie charges nothing," said our informant, a 
wild old Irish wanderer, whom we found kelp-burning 
close to our anchorage ; '' the laird is too dacent a man 
to take Tint for tlie rocks .'" 

One might wander far, like those princes of Eastern 
fable who went that weary quest in search of king- 
doms, and fare far worse than here. Though en- 
vironed on every side by roclcs and crags, and ringed 
by the watery waste, Ganna is fat and fertile, fall of 
excellent sheep-pastures and patches of fine, arable 
ground. Its lower slopes, in times remote, were en- 
, riched by the salt sea-loam, and its highest peaks have 
been manured for ages by innumerable sea-fowl. 
Huge sheep of the Cheviot breed cover all the slopes, 


finding their way to the most inaccessible crags; long 
trains of milch-cows wind from tlie hills to the outside 
of the laird's dairy, morning and gloaming; and in 
the low, rich under-stretchcs of valley are little patches 
of excellent corn, where the loud " creek-creek " of the 
corn-crake sounds harshly sweet. So much for the 
material blessings of the island. Now, let us note 
those other blessings which touch the eye and soul. 

It is a fish-shaped island, about five miles long and 
a mile and a half broad, throwing out, by a small isth- 
mus on the western side, a low peninsula of grassy 
green. The main island forms a ridge, the cliffs of 
which rise on the northern side to about one thousand 
feet above the level of the sea, and descend on the 
southern side to the shore, by a succession of terraces 
of dazzling greenness, supported on magnificent col- 
umns of basalt. In the space between the peninsula 
(which, being separated from the mainland at high 
water, is sometimes called Sandy Island) and the 
southeastern point of the mainland, lies the harbor,^ 
and across the isthmus to the west lies another greater 
bay, so sown with grim little islands and sunken rocks 
as to be totally useless to navigators in any weather. 
The peninsula is somewhat low, but the crags of the. 
main island tower to an immense height above the 
level of the sea. 

In a tiny bay opening to the east, towel's the lofty 
rock whereon was situated the old tower, a few frag- 
ments of which are to be seen by any one making 
the difficult ascent. Here it was that a Lord of the 
Isles confined one of his mistresses — a story still 


current in the island, and familiar to strangers from 
Scott'tj lines : 

" Signal of Ronald's liigli command. 
A beacon gleamed o'er sea and land, 
From Canna's tower, that, steep and gray, 
Like falconnest o'erhanga the bay. 
Seek not the giddy crag to climb. 
To view the turret scathed by time ; 
It is a task of doubt and fear 
To aught but goat or mountain deer. 
But rest thee on the silver beach, 
And let the aged herdsman teach 

His tale of former day ; 
His cur's wild clamor he shall chide. 
And for thy seat by ocean's side 

His varied plaid display ; 
Then tell, how with their chieftain came. 
In ancient times, a foreign dame 

To yonder turret gray. 
Stem was her lord's suspicious mind. 
Who in so rude a jail confmcd 

So soft and fair a thrall ! 
And oft, when moon on ocean slept. 
That lovely lady sate and wept 

Upon the castle-wall. 
And turned her eye to southern climes. 
And thought, perchance, of happier times. 
And touched hor lute by fits, and sung 
Wild ditties in her native tongue. 
And still, when on the cliff and bay 
Placid and pale the moonbeams play, 

And every breeze is mute, 
On the lone Hebridean's ear 
Steals a strange pleasure, mixed with fear. 
While from that cliff he seems to hear 

The murmur of a lute. 
And sounds, aa of a captive lone 


That mourns her woes in tongue unknown. 
Strange is the tale — but all too long 
Already hath it staid the song — 

Yet who may pass them by, 
That crag and tower in ruins gray. 
Nor to their hapless tenant pay 

The tribute of a sigh?" 

There is scarcely an old ruin in the north but is 
haunted by some spirit such as this — and there is a 
ruin on every headland. 

Canna is the child of the great waters, and such 
children, lonely and terrible as is their portion, seldom 
lack loveliness — often their only dower. From the 
edge of the lapping water to the peak of the highest 
crag, it is clothed with ocean gifts and signs of power. 
Its strange under-caves and rocks are colored with 
rainbow hues, drawn from glorious-featured weeds; 
overhead, its cliffs of basalt rise shadowy, ledge after 
ledge darkened by innumerable little wings ; and 
high over all grow soft greenswards, knolls of thyme 
and heather, where sheep bleat and whence the herd- 
boy crawls over to look into the raven's nest. On a 
still summer day, when the long Atlantic swell is 
crystal smooth, Canna looks supremely gentle on her 
image in the tide, and out of her hollow under caves 
comes tlie low, weird whisper of a voice ; the sunlight 
glimmers on peaks and sea, the beautiful shadow 
quivers below, broken here and there by dri.ting 
weeds, and the bleating sheep on the high swards 
soften the stillness. But when the winds come in over 
the deep, the beauty changes — it darkens, it flashes 
from softness into power. The huge waters boil at 
the foot of the crags, and the peaks are caught in 


mist ; and the air, full of a great roar, gathers around 
Canna's troubled face. Climb the crags, and the 
horrid rocks to westward, jutting out here and there 
like sharks' teeth, spit the lurid white foam back in 
the glistening eyes of the sea. Slip down to the 
water's edge, and amid the deafening roar the spray 
rises fa above you in a hissing shower. The whole 
island seems quivering through and through. The 
waters gatlier on all sides, with only one long, glassy 
gleam to leeward. No place in the world could seem 
fuller of supernatural voices, more powerful, or more 
utterly alone. 

It is our fortune to see the island in all its moods ; 
for we are in no haste to depart. Days of deep calm 
alternate with days of the wildest storm. There is 
constant change. 

Everywhere in the interior of the island there are 
sweet pastoral glimpses. On a summer afternoon, 
while we are wandering in the road near the shore, wo 
see the cattle beginning to flock from the pastures, 
headed by two gentle bulls, and gathering round the 
dairy house, where, in "short-gowns," white as snow, 
the two head dairymaids sit on their stools. Tlie kine 
low softly, as the milk is drawn from the swelling 
udder, and now and then a calf, desperate with thirst, 
makes a plunge at his mother and drinks eagerly with 
closed eyes till he is driven away. Men and children 
gather around, looking on idly. As we pass by, the 
dairymaid offers us a royal drink of fresh, warm milk, 
and with that taste in our lips we loiter aw^ay. Now 
we are among fields, and we might be in England — 
so sweet is the scent of hay. Yonder the calm sea 


glimmers, and one by one the stars are opening like 
forget-me-nots, with dewdrops of light for reflections 
in the water below. Can this be Canna ? Can this be 
the solitary child of the ocean? Hark ! That is the 
corn-crake, crying in the com — the sound we have 
heard so often in the southern fields ! As we listen, 
our eyes are dim indeed, for we are murmuring the 
tender rhyme of the poet of Merkland — lines never 
yet published till now, but treasured up by us as 
Bomething passionately sweet. It seema his very 
voice we hear, murmuring them in the twilight. 

I've listened now a full half-hour, 
Nor knew that voice possessed the power 
Of Lethe's fabled wave to bless 
My spirit with forgetful ness. 

The night is calm as my desire. 

I see the stars, yet scarcely see. 

So sweetly melteth all their fire 

Into the blue serenity. 

The mountains mingle with the haze. 

And the three glorious sycamores 

That stand before three cottage doors, 

And throw warm sliadows on the floors 

On beautiful sunshiny days. 

Come out in firmer, blacker lines, 

Where softly bright a crescent shines. 

A famous crescent is it still 

Which seems to love this Merkland 11111 

As well as ever Helicon, 

And shines with as intent a will 

On Luggie, as it ever shone 

On Castaly in days of yore. 

When poesy was deepest lore 

And love the customary glee ; 

A land — a land of Arcady. 


But whether in that land of dreams, 

When sun had Bct and many streams 

Were mingling in one miirnmrous moan, 

Through alder coverts flowing on. 

Thy voice, dear Corn-crake ! sounded through 

The calmness, when the dear cuckoo 

Had fallen asleep in shady glen, 

Far from the paths of mortal men, 

I cannot tell ; yet I uphold 

That never a more vernal cry, 

From lawn or air, or hedge or wckkI, 

Filled all the eager, hungry sky, 

Or charmed a sylvan solitude. 

O Corn-crake I will you never weary ? 
You cry as if it were thy duty. 
And thy voice were all thy beauty. 
Do you cry that I may hear thee ? 
Not a bird awake but thee. 
Except, across the dim, dim sea. 
The voluptuous nightingale, 
Singing in an orange dale 

Ey a word, by a tone, we are carried into a dream ; 
the nightingale sings, and the Scottish poem dies 
away among all the perfumes of the south ! 

"When there is little or no sea, it is delightful to pull 
in the punt round the precipitous sliores, and come 
upon the lonely haunts of the ocean-birds. There is 
one great cliif, with a huge rock rising out of the 
watere before it, which is the favorite breeding 
haunt of the puffins, and while swarms of these little 
creatures, with their bright, parrot-like bills and plump, 
white breasts, flit thick as locusts in the air, legions 
darken the waters underneath, and rows on rows sit 
brooding over their young on the dizziest edges of the 



cliff itself. The noise of wings is ceaseless, there is 
constant coming and going, and so tame are the birds 
that one might almost seize them, either on the water 
or in the air, with the outstretched hand. Discharge 
a gun into the air, and, as the liollow echoes roar up- 
ward and inward to the very hearts of the caves, it 
will suddenly seem as if the tremendous crags were 
loosening to fall ; but the dull, dangerous sound you 
hear is only the rush of wings. A roclc farther north- 
ward is possessed entirely by gulls, chiefly the smaller 
sj^ecies ; thousands sit still and fearless, whitening the 
summit like snow, but many hover with discordant 
scream over the passing boat, and seem trying with 
the wild beat of their wings to scare the intruders 
away. Close in shore, at tlie mouth of a deep, dark 
cave, cormorants are to be found, great black " scarts," 
their mates, and the young, preening their glistening 
j)lumage leisurely, or stretching out their snake-like 
necks to peer with fishy eyes this way and that. 
They are not very tame here, and should you present 
a gun, will soon flounder into the sea and disappear; 
but at times, when they have gorged themselves with 
fish, so awkward are they with their wings, and so 
muddled are their wits, that one might run right 
abreast of them and knock them over with an oar. 

Everywhere below, above, on all sides, there is noth- 
ing but life — birds innumerable, brooding over their 
eggs, or fishing for the young. Hero and there a lit- 
tle fluff of down, just launched out into the great 
world, paddles about, bewildered, and dives away 
from the boat's bow with a faint, troubled cry. On 
the outer rocks gulls and guillemots, puffins on the 


cratrs, and comiorants on tlic ledt2;es of the caves. 
The poor reflective hnnian beinc:, brought into the 
sound of such a life, gets quite scared and dazed. Tlic 
air, the rocks, the waters, arc all astir. The face 
turns for relief upward, where the blue sky meets the 
Bumrait of the crags. Even yonder, on the very ledge, 
a black speck sits and croaks ; and still further up- 
ward, dwarfed by distance to the size of a sparrow- 
hawk, hovers a black eagle, fronting the sun. 

There is something awe-inspiring, on a dead calm, 
day, in the low, hushed wasli of the great swell that 
forever sets in from the ocean ; slow, slow it comes, 
with the 'regular beat of a pulse, rising its height, 
without breaking, against the cliff it mirrors in its 
polished breast, and then dying down beneath with a 
murmuring moan. What power is there ! what dread- 
ful, fatal ebbing and flowing ! No finger can stop 
that under-swell, no breath can come between that 
and its course ; it has rolled since Time began — the 
same, neither more nor less, whether the weather be 
still or wild — and it will keep on when we are all dead. 
Bah! that is hypochondria. But look! what is that 
floating yonder, on the glassy water ? 

" Oil ! is it fish, or weed, or floating hair, 
0' drowned maiden fair?" 

No ; but it tells as clear a tale. Those planks formed 
lately the sides of a ship, and on that old mattress, 
with the straw washing out of the rents, some weary 
sailor pillowed his head not many hours ago. "Where 
is the ship now? AVhere is the sailor? Oh ! if a 
magician's wand could strike these waters, and open 


them up to our view, what a sight should we see — 
the slimy hulls of ships long submerged; the just 
sunken fisli-boat, with ghastly faces twisted among 
tlie nets ; the skeleton suspended in the huge under- 
grass and monstrous weeds; the black shapes, the 
flesliless faces, looming green in the dripping foam 
and watery dew ! Yet how gently the swell comes 
rolling, and how pleasant look the depths this sum- 
mer day — as if Death were not, as if there could be 
neither storm nor wreck at sea ! 

More hypochondria, perhaps. Why the calm sea 
should invariably make us melancholy we cannot tell, 
but it does so, in spite of all our efforts to be gay. 
Walt Whitman used to sport in the great waters as 
happily as a porpoise or a seal, without any dread, 
with vigorous animal delight; and we, too, can enjoy 
a glorious swim in the sun, if there is just a little 
wind, and the sea sparkles and freshens full of life. 
But to swim in a dead calm is dreadful to a sensitive 
man. Something mesmeric grips and weakens him. 
If the water be deep, he feels dizzy, as if he were sus- 
pended far up in the air. 

We are harping on delicate mental chords, and for- 
getting Canna ; yet we have been musing in such a 
mood as Canna must inevitably awaken in all who 
feel the world. She is so lonelv, so beautiful : and 
the seas around her are so full of sounds and sights 
that seize the soul. There is nothing mean, or squalid, 
or miserable about Canna; but she is melancholy 
and subdued — she seems like a Scandinavian Ilavfru, 
to sit with her hand to her ear, earnestly listening to 
the sea. 


Tliat, too, is what first strikes one in tlio Canna 
people — their melancholy look ; not grief-worn, not 
sorrowful, not passionate, but simply melancholy and 
subdued. We cannot believe they are unhappy be- 
yond the lot of other people who live by lal)or, and it 
is quite certain that, in worldly circumstances, they 
are much more comfortable, than the Highland poor 
are generally. Nature, however, with her wondrous 
secret influences, has subdued their lives, toned their 
thoughts, to the spirit of the island where they dwell. 
This 18 more particularly the case with the women. 
Poor human souls, with that dark, searching look in 
the eyes, those feeble flutterings of the lips ! They 
speak sad and low, as if somebody were sleeping close 
by. When they step forward and ask you to walk 
into the dwelling, you think (being new to their 
ways) that some one has just died. All at once, 
and inevitably, you hear the leaden wash of the sea, 
and you seem to be walking on a grave. 

" A ghostly people ! ' exclaims the reader ; " Keep 
me from Canna ! " That is an error. The people do 
seem ghostly at first, their looks do sadden and de- 
press ; but the feeling soon wears away, when you 
find how much quiet happiness, how much warmth 
of heart, may underlie the melancholy air. When 
they know you a little, ever so little, they brighten, 
not into anything demonstrative, not into sunniness, 
but into a silvern kind of beauty, wliich we can only 
compare to moonlight. A veil is quietly lifted, and 
you see the soul's face ; and then you know that 
these folk are melancholy, not for sorrow's sake, but 
just as moonlight is melancholy, just as the wash of 


water is melancholy, because tliat is the natural ex- 
pression of their lives. They are capable of a still, 
heart-suffering tenderness, very touching to behold. 
We visit many of their houses, and hold many of 
their hands. Kindly, gentle, open-handed as melting 
charity, we find them all ; the poorest of them as hos- 
pitable as the proudest chieftain of their race. There 
is a gift everywhere for the stranger, and a blessing 
to follow — for they know that after all he is bound 
for the same bourne. 

Theirs is a quiet life, a still passage from birth to 
the grave; still, untroubled, save for the never-silent 
voices of the waves. The women work very hard, 
both indoors and afield. Some of the men go away 
herring-fishing in the season, but the majority find 
employment either on the island or the circumjacent 
waters. We cannot credit the men with great energy 
of character; they do not seem industrious. An act- 
ive man could not lounge as they lounge, with that 
total abandonment of every nerve and muscle. They 
will lie in little groups for hours, looking at the sea, 
and biting stalks of grass — not seeming to talk, save 
when one makes a kind of grunting observation, and 
stretches out his limbs a little farther. Some one 
comes and says : " There are plenty of herring over in 
Loch Scavaig — a Skye boat got a great haul last 
night." Perhaps the loungers go off to try their 
luck, but very likely they say: " AVait till to-morrow 
— it may be all untrue;" and in all probability, be- 
fore they get over to the fishing-ground, the herrings 
have disappeared. 

Yet they can work, too, and with a will, when they 


are ftxirly set on to work. They can't speculate, tliey 
can't searclv for profit ; the shrewd man outwits tlieni 
at every turn. Tlicy keep poor — but, keeping poor, 
tlicy keep good. Their worst fault is their dreami- 
ness; but surely as there is light in heaven, if there 
be blame here, God is to blame here, who gave them 
dreamy souls ! For our part, keep us from the man 
who could be born in Oanna, live on and on with that 
ocean-murmur around him, and elude dreaminess and 
a melancholy like theirs ! 

" Ball ! " cries a good soul from a city ; " they are 
lazy — like the Irish, like Jamaca niggers ; they are 
behind the age ; let them die ! " You are quite right, 
my good soul ; and if it will be any comfort to you to 
hear it, they, and such as they, are dying fast. They 
can't keep up with you ; you are too clever, too great. 
You, we have no doubt, could live at Canna, and es- 
tablish a manufactory there for getting the sea turned 
into salt for export. You wouldn't dream — not you I 
Ere long these poor Highlanders will die out, and 
with them may die out gentleness, hospitality, charity, 
and a few other lazy habits of the race. 

In a pensive mood, witli a prayer on our lips for 
the future of a noble race destined to perish locally, 
we wander across the island till we come to the little 
graveyard wliere the people of Canna go to sleep. It 
is a desolate spot, commanding a distant view of the 
Western Ocean. A rude stone wall, with a clumsy 
gate, surrounds a small square, bo wild, so like the 
stone-covered hill-side all round, that we should not 
guess its use without being guided by the fine stone 
mausoleum in the midst. That is the last home of 


the Lairds of Canna and their kin ; it is quite modern 
and respectable. Around, covered knee-deep with 
grass, are the graves of the islandere, with no other 
memorial-stones than simple pieces of rock, large 
and small, brought from the seashore and placed aA 
foot-stones and head-stones. Rugged as water tossing 
in the wind is the old kirkyard, and the graves of the 
dead therein are as the waves of the sea. 

In a place apart lies the wooden bier, with hand- 
spokes, on which thej carry the cold men and womea 
hither ; and bj its side — a sight, indeed, to dim the 
eyes — is another smaller bier, smaller and lighter, used 
for little children. Well, there is not such a long 
way between parents and offspring; the old here are 
cliildren too, silly in worldly mutters, loving, sensitive, 
credulous of strange tales. They are coming hither, 
faster and faster ; bier after bier, shadow after shadow. 
It is the tradesman's day now, the day of progress, the 
day of civilization, the day of shops ; but high as may 
be your respect for the commercial glory of the nation, 
stand for a moment in imagination among these graves, 
listen to one tale out of many that might be told of 
those who sleep below, and join me in a prayer for 
the poor islandei-s whom tliey are carrying, here and 
in a thousand other kirkyards, to the rest that is with- 
out knowledge and the sleep that is without dream. 




" She was a woman of a steadfast miud, 
Tender and deep in her excesa of lovo ; 
Not speaking much, pleased ratlier with the joy 
Of her own thoughts." 

Wordsworth's " ExcTmaiON." 

There was a man named Ian Macraonail, who lived 
at Canna in the sea. In the days of his prosperity 
God sent him issue — five lads and a lass. Now Ian 
had great joy in his five sons, for thej grew up to be 
fine young men, straight-limbed, clean-skinned, clever 
with their hands ; and in the girl he had not joy, but 
pain, for she was a sickly child and walked lame, 
through a trouble in the spine. Her name waa 
Eiradh, and she was born to many thoughts. 

AVhen she was born she cried ; nor did she cease 
crying after long days ; and folk seeing that she waa 
so sickly a child, thought that she would die soon. 
Yet Eiradh did not die, but cried on, so that tho 
house was never quiet, and the neighbors, when they 
heard the sound in the night, said, " That is Ian Mac- 
raonail's bairn ; the Lord has not yet taken her away." 
When she was three years old she lay in the cradle 
still, and could not run upon her feet ; and then foul 
sores came out upon her head. After they burst, she 
had sound sleeps, and her trouble passed away. 


The mother's heart was glad to sec the little one 
grow stiller and brighter every day, and try to prattle 
like other children at the hearth ; and she nursed her 
little care, slowly teaching her to move upon her feet. 
Afterward they taught her how to use a little crutch,^ 
of wood, which Ian himself cut in the long wintei 
nights when he was at home. 

Ian Macraonail was a just man, and his house was 
a well-doing house ; but Eiradh saw little of her fa- 
ther's face. In the summer season, he was far away, 
chasing the herring on the great sea, and even on the 
stormy winter days he was fishing cod and ling with 
a mate on the shores of Skye and Mull. When he 
came home he was wet and slee]iy, and all the children 
had to keep very still. Then Eiradh would sit in a 
corner of the hearth, and see his dark fa^e in the pcat- 
snioke. If he took her upon his knee, she felt afraid 
and cried ; so that the father said, " The child is stupid ; 
take her away." But when he took her young brother 
upon his knee, the boy laughed and played with his 

For all that, the mother held Eiradh dear above all 
her other children, because she was sickly and had 
given her so much care. 

Ian had built the house with his own hands, and it 
looked right out upon the sea. All the day and night 
the water cried at the door. Sometimes it was low 
and still and glistening ; and it was pleasant then to 
sit out on the sand and throw stones into the smooth 
and glassy tide. But oftenest it was wild and loud, 
shrieking out as if it were living, dashing in the sea- 
weed and plariks of ships, and seeming to say, " Come 


out here, come out here, thut I may cat you up alive !" 
All the night long he cried on, while the wind tore at 
the roof of the house, and would have carried it far 
away, if the straw ropes and heavy stones had not been 
there to hold it down. 

Then Eiradh would hide her head under the blankets 
and think of her father upon the sea. 

The water cried at the door. When Eiradh's eldest 
brother grew up into a strong youth, he went away 
with his father upon the sea. lie stayed away so long 
that his face grew strange. When he came home he 
was sleepy and tired, like his father, and said little to 
his sister and brothers. But one day he brought 
Eiradh home a little round-eyed owl, like a little old 
woman in a tufted wig. Eiradh was proud that day. 
AVhen the calliach opened its mouth and roared for 
food, she laughed and clapped her hands ; and she 
made the bird a nest in an old basket, and fed it with 
lier own hands. She loved her great brother very 
much after that, and was happy when he came home. 

The water cried at the door. One day Eiradh's 
second brother joined his father and brother upon the 
sea, and ever after that was sleepy and tired like the 
others when he came home. 

The mother said to Eiradh, " That is always the 
way — boys must work for their bread." But Eiradh 
thought to herself, " It is the sea calling them away. 
I shall soon not have a brother left in the house." 

The water cried at the door, till all Eiradh's five 
brothers went away. Then it was very lonely in the 
dwelling, and the days and nights were long and dull. 
When the fishers came home, their faces were all 



Strange to her, and thej SGetned great, rougli men, 
wliilo she was only a little sicklj child. But thej 
were kind. Thej told her wild stories about the sea 
and the people thej had seen, and laughed out loud 
and merrj at the wonder in her great, staring cjes. 
Thej told her of the great whales and the sea-snakes 
that have manes like a horse and teeth like a saw ; 
and how the old witch of Barra smoked her pipe over 
her pot p.nd sold the fishermen winds. 

One night, when Eiradh was twelve years of age, 
she sat with her mother over the fire, waiting for her 
father and brothers to come home in the skiff from 
Mull, It was a rainy night, late in the year. Now, 
the mother had been ailing for many days with a 
heaviness and ])ain about the heart, and she said to 
Biradh: "I feel sick, and I will lie down upon the 
bed to rest a little." Eiradh kept very still, that her 
mother might sleep, and the pot, with the supper in 
it, bubbled ; the rain went splash-splash at the door, 
till Eiradh fell to sleep herself. She woke up with a 
loud cry, and, looking round her, saw her father and 
brothers in the room. The steam was coming thick 
like smoke from their clothes, their faces were white, 
and they were talking to one another. She called to 
them not to make a noise, because mother was sleep- 
ing; but her father said in a sharp voice, " Take the 
girl away ; she is better out of the house 1" Then a 
neighbor woman stepped forward, out of the shadow 
of the door, and said, " She shall go with me." When 
the woman took her by the hand and led her to the 
other house through the rain, she was so frightened 
she could not say a word. The woman led her in 


and bade her seat herself beside the fire, where a man 
sat smoking his pipe and mending his nets. Then 
Eiradh heard her whisper in liis ear, as she passed 
him, "This is lame Eiradh with the red hair; her 
mother has just died." 

It seemed to Eiradh that the ground was suddoidy 
drawn from under her feet, and she was walking high 
up in the air, and all around her were voices crying, 
" Eiradh ! Eiradh with the red hair! yourmother has 
just died." When that passed away, a sharp thread 
was drawn through her heart, and she could scarcely 
cry for pain; but when the tears came, they did her 
good, washing the pang away. But it was like a 

It was like a dream, too, the day the woman took 
her by the hand and led her back to the house. The 
sea was loud that day — loud and dark — and it seemed 
to be saying, " Eiradh ! Eiradh ! your mother has just 
died." The home was clean and still ; father was sit- 
tinir on a bench beside the fire in his best clothes, 
looking veiy white. When she went in he drew her 
to him and kissed her on the forehead, and she sobbed 
sore. The woman said, " Come, Eiradh," and led her 
aside. Something was lying on the bed all white, and 
there was a smell like fresh-bleached linen in the air ; 
then the woman lifted up a kerchief, and Eiradh saw 
her mother's face dressed in a clean cap, and the gray 
hair brushed down smooth and neat. Eiradh 's tears 
stopped, and she was afraid — it looked so cold. The 
woman said, '' Would you like to kiss her, Eiradh, 
before they take her away ?" But Eiradh drew her 
breath ti^ht, and cried to be taken out of the house. 


That niglit slie slejjt in the neighbor's house, and 
tlie next day her mother was taken to the graveyard 
on the liiU, Eiradh did not see them take her away ; 
but in the afternoon she went home and found the 
house empty. It was clean and bright. Tiie peat- 
fire was blazing on the floor, and there were bottles 
and glasses on the press in the corner. By and by 
her father and brothers came in, all dressed in their 
best clothes, and with red eyes ; and many fishermen 
— neighbors — stood at tlic door to take the parting 
glass, and went away quite merry to their homes. 
But the priest came and sat down by the fire with 
her father and brothers, and patted Eiradh on the 
head, telling her not to cry any more, because her 
mother was happy with God. She went and sat on 
the ground in a corner, looking at them through her 
tears. Iler father was lighting his pipe, and she heard 
him say, 'She was a good wife to me;" and the 
priest answered, " She was a good wife and a good 
mother ; she has gone to a better place." Eiradh 
wondered very much to see them so quiet and hard. 

With that, the days of Eiradh's loneliness began. 
She had no mother to talk to her in the long nights 
when her father and brothers were away upon the 
sea ; but she used to go to the neighbor-woman's 
house and sleep among the children. Oftener than 
ever before, she loved to sit by the water and listen, 
playing alone, so that her playmates used to say,, 
" Eiradh is a stupid girl, and likes to sit by herself." 
One day she went to the graveyard on the hill and 
searched about for the place where her mother was 
laid. The grass was long and green, and there were 


great woods everywhere ; but there was one place 
where the earth had been newly turned, and blades 
of youni^ grass were beginning to creep through the 
clav. She felt sure tliat her mother must be sleeping 
there. So she sat down on the grave and began to 
knit. It was a clear, bright day, the sheep were cry- 
ing on the hills, and the sea far off was like a glass ; 
and it was strange to think her mother was lying 
down there, so nenr to her, with her face up to the 
sky. Eiradh began wondering how deep she was ly- 
ino- and whether she was still dressed in white. Her 
thoughts made her afraid, and she looked all aromid 
her. Though it was daytime, she could not bear to 
stay any longer, for she had heard about ghosts. As 
she walked home on hor crutch, she looked round 
her very often, fancying she heard some one at her 

Though Eiradh* Nicraonail was a sickly girl, she 
was clever and quick, and she soon began to take a 
pleasure in the house. The neighbor-woman helped 
about the place and taught Eiradh many things — how 
to cook, how to make cakes of oatmeal on the brander, 
and how to wash clothes. She was so quick and 
willing, and longed so much to please her father and 
brothers, that they said, "Eiradh is as good as a 
woman in a house, though she is so young." Then 
Eiradh brightened, full of pride, and ever after that 
kept the home clean and pleasant, and forgot her 

There was a man in Canna, a little old man with a 
club foot, who got his living in many ways, for he 
could make shoes and knew how to mend nets, and 


besides, he Wcos a learned man, having been taught, ai, 
a school in the south. Some of the children used to 
go to him in the evenings, and he taught them how to 
read ; but he was so sharp and cross that sometimes 
he would have nothing to say to them, though they 
came. Now and then, Eiradh went over to him, and 
he was gentler with her than with the rest, because 
she had a trouble of the body like himself. He 
learned her her letters, and afterward, with a wooden 
trunk for a desk, made her try to write. Often, too, 
he came over to her in the house, and smoked his pipe 
while she knitted ; but if her father, or any of her 
brothers came in, he gave them sharp answere and soon 
went away, while they laughed and said, " It is a pity 
that his learning does not make him more free." He 
was a strange old man, and believed in ghosts and 
witches. Eiradh liked to sit and listen to his tales. 
He told her how the bagpipes played far off when any 
one was going to die. He told her of a young man in 
Skye, who could cause diseases by the power of the 
evil eye, and of a woman in Barra, who used to 
change into a hare every night and run up to the top 
of the mountains to meet a spirit in black by the side 
of a fire made out of the coffins fo those who died in sin. 
He had seen every loophole in Skipness Castle full of 
cats' heads, with red eyes, and every head was the 
head of a witch. He believed in dreams, and thought 
that the dead rose every night and walked together 
by the side of the sea. Often in the dark evenings, 
when Eiradli was sittinf]^ at his knee, he would take 
his pipe out of his mouth and tell her to listen ; if she 
listened very hard in the pauses of the wind, she would 


hear something like a, voice crying, and he told lier 
that it was the spirit of the poor lady who died in the 
tower, walking up and down, moaning and wringing 
its hands. 

As Eiradh grew older she had so much to do in the 
house that she thouirht of these thin{rs less than before. 
But when she sat by hei"self knitting, and the day's 
work was over, voices came about her that belonged 
to another land, and she grew so used to them that 
their presence seemed company to her, and she waa 
not afraid. By the time that she was seventeen years 
of age God's strength had come upon her, and she 
could walk about without her crutch. She had red 
hair, her face wa^ w^hite and well-favored, and her 
eyes were the color of the green sea. 

One night, when her father and brothers were 
sleeping with her in the house, Eiradh Kicraonail had 
a dream. She thought she was standing by the sea, 
and it was full of moonlight and the shadows of the 
stars. While she stood looking: and listenino;, there 
came up out of the sea a black beast like a seal, fol- 
lowed by five young ones, and they floated about in 
the light of the moon with their black heads up, 
listening to a sound from far away like the music of a 
hai-p. All at once the wind rose and the sea grew 
rough and white, and the lift was quite dark. In 
a little time the distant music grew louder and the 
wind died away. Then Eiradh saw the beast floating 
about alone in the white moonliorht, and bleatius like 
a shee^^ when robbed of its lamb ; and at last it gave a 
great cry and stretched itself out stiif and dead, with 
its speckled belly shining uppermost and tlie herring- 


8yle playing round it like flashes of silver light. With 
that she awoke, and it was dark night ; the wind was 
crying softly outside, and she could hear her father 
and brothers breathing heavy in their sleep. 

The next day, when her father and brother sat 
mending their nets at the door, she told them her 
dream. They only laughed, and said it was folly put 
into her head by the old man who taught her to read. 
But she saw that they looked at one another, and 
were not well pleased. All that day the dream 
troubled her at her work, and whenever she heard the 
sheep bleat from the hill-side she felt faint. The 
next night she said a long prayer for her father 
and brothers, and slept sound. The dream did not 
come again, and in a few days the trouble of it wore 
away. But when the news came that they were 
catching herring in Loch Scavaig, and the fisher- 
man and his sons began preparing their boat to 
sail over and try their chance, all Eiradh's fears came 
back upon her twenty-fold. It was changeful weather 
early in the year; there were strong winds and a 
great sea. 

The day before the boat went away Ian had the 
rheumatic trouble so sore in his bones that he could 
not rise out of his bed ; and he was still so sick next 
day that he told the young men to go away alone, for 
•fear of missing the good fishing. They went off with 
a lio-ht heart — four strong men and a tall lad. 

Ian Macraonail never saw his sons any more. 
Three days afterward, news was brouglit that the 
boat had laid over and filled in a squall, and that 
every one on board had been drowned in the sea. 


Then Eiradh knew that her strange dream had 
partly come true, but that more was to couie true yet. 
The water cried at the door. Ian sat like a frozen 
man in the house, and when Eiradh looked at hiia 
her tears ceased — she felt afraid, llo scarcely said a 
word, and did not cry, but he paid no heed to his 
meat. He looked like the man on the hill-side when 
the voice of God came out of the burninir bush. 

Again and agjain Eiradh cried, " Father !" and looked 
into his face, but he held up his hand each ti.uo to 
warn her away. A thread ran throu'rh her heart at 
this, for she had always known ho loved her brothers 
best, and now he did not seem to remember her at all. 
She went outside the house, and looked ut the crying 
water, and hated it for all it had done. Her heart 
was sad for her five brothers who were dead, but it 
was saddest of all for her father who was alive. 

The priest came, and prayed for the dead. Ian 
prayed, too, with a cold heart. Afterward the priest 
took him by the hand, looking into his eyes, and said, 
*' Ian, you have suffered sore, but those the Lord loves 
are born to many troubles." Ian looked down, and 
answered in a low voice, " That is true ; I have noth- 
ing left now to live for." But the priest said, "" You 
have Eiradh, your daughter; she is a good girl." 
Ian made no answer, but sat down and smoked his 
pipe. Eiradh went out of the house, and cried to 

Now, that day Ian Macraonail put on his best 
black gear and the black hat with the broad crape 
band. The black clothes made him look whiter. He 
took his staff, and went up over the hiU on to the 


cliffs, over the place where the black eagle builds, and 
stood close to the edge, looking over at Loch S^avaig, 
where tlie lads were di'owned. While he stood there, 
a shepherd that knew him came by, and, seeing him 
look so wild, fancied that he meant to take the short 
road to the kirkyard. So the man touched him on 
the shoulder, saying, " lie sleeps ill that rocks himself 
to sleep. We are in God's hands, and must bide his 
time." Ian knew what the shepherd meant, and shook 
his head. '* I have been a wdl-doing man," he said, 
" and mine has been a well-doing house. I have drunk 
a bitter cup, but the Lord forbid that I should do the 
sin you think of." So the ehepherd made the sign of 
the blessed cross, and went away. 

After that Ian wore his black gear eveiy day, and 
every day he went up on the high cliffs to walk. He 
ate his meat quite hearty, and he was gentle with 
Eiradh in the house ; but he stared all around him 
like a man at the helm in a thick mist, and listened 
as the man at the helm listens in the mist for the wind 
that is coming. It was plain that he took little heart 
in his dwelling, or in the good money he had saved. 
One day he said, " AVhen I go again to the herring- 
fishing, I must pay wages to strangers I cannot trust, 
and things will not go well." The day after that, at 
the mouth of lateness, the}'^ fomid him leaning against 
a stone, close over the place where the black eagle 
builds; and his heart was turned to lead, and his 
blood was water, and there were no pictures in his 

Now Eiradh Nicraonail was alone in the whole 



When Ian was in the narrow house where the fire 
is cold and the grass grows at the door, Eiradh sold 
the boats and the nets, and all but the house slio 
Jived in ; and when she counted the good money, she 
found there was enough to keep her from hunger for 
a little time. In these days she liad little heart to 
work in the house and in the fields, and every thne 
she thought of tliose who were lying under the hill 
she f^lt a salt stone rise in her tliroat. In the long 
nights, when she was alone, voices came out of the 
sea, and eyes looked at her — she heard the wind 
calling, and the ghost of the lady crying up in the 
tower — and she thought of all the strange things the 
old man had told her when she was small. Often 
her heart was so troubled that she had to run 
away to tlie neighbors, and sit among them for 
company. She often said, "I would rather be far 
away than here, for it is a dull place;" and she 
planned to take service on some farm across the 

The women bade her wait and look out for a man, 
but Eiradh said, " The man is not born that would 
earn meat for me." She was dull and down-looking 
in these days, speaking little, but her bodily trouble 
was all gone, and she was clean-limbed and had a 
soft face. More than one lad looked her way, and 
would have come courting to her house at night, 
but she barred the door and would let no man in. 
One night, when a fisher lad got in, and came laugli- 
ino: to her bedside, he was sore afraid at the look 
of her face and tlie wordi of her mouth, though 


she only cried, " Go away this night, for the love 
of my father and mother. I am sick and heavy with 

Tliese were decent and well-doing lads, 8hei)herd8 
earning good wages, but Eiradh liad a face to frigliten 
them away. 

The winter after Ian Macraonail died, Calum 
Eachern, the tailor, came north to Canna. The folk 
had been waiting for him since long, and there was 
much work to be done — so that Calum was busy 
morning and night in one house or another; but 
tliough he had been busier, his tongue could never 
have kept still. Every night people gathered in the 
place where he worked, and those were merry times. 
He was like a full kist, never empty ; his tales were 
never done. He had the story of the king of 
Lochlan's daughter, and how Fionn killed the great 
bird of the red beak, and many more beside. He 
loved best to tell about the men of peace, with their 
green houses under the hillside, and about the 
changeling bairns that play the fairy pipes in the 
time of sleep, and about the ladies with green gowns, 
that sit in the magic wells and tempt the herdboys 
with silver rings. He had that many riddles they 
were like the limpets on the sea-.shore. He knew old 
songs, and he had the gift of making rhymes himself 
to his own tune. So the coming of Calum Eachern 
was like the playing of pipes at a wedding on a sum- 
mer day. 

Calum was little, narrow in the shoulders, and 
short in the legs. His face was like a china cu]) for 
neatness. He had a little turued-up nose, and white 


teetli, and lio shaved his beard clean every day. lie 
had a little twinkling eye like a fox's, and when ho 
talked to you he cocked his head on one side, like a 
sparrow on a dyke. 

One night, he was at work in a neighbor's house, 
and Eiradli went in with the rest. Calum sat 
on his board, and some were looking on and listen- 
ing to his talk. When Eiradh went in, he put hia 
head on one side and looked at her, and said in a 
rhyme — 

" What did the fox say? 
' Huch ! huch 1 huch !' cried the fox ; 
' Cold are 017 bones this day — 
« I have lent my skin to cover the head 

Of the girl with the red hair."' 

All the folk laughed, and Eiradh, laughed, too. 
Then she sat down on the floor by the fire, and 
hearkened with her cheek on her hand. Calum 
Eachern was like a bee in the time of honey. He 
stitched, and sang, and told tales about the men of 
peace, and the land where jewels grew as thick as 
chuckie-stones, and gold is as plenty as the sand of 
the sea. Whenever Eiradh looked up, he had his 
head on one side, and his eyes were laughing at her. 
By and by he nodded, and said : 

" What did the sea-gull say ? ' 

' Kriki ! kriki!' cried the sea-gull ; 
' Hard it is to hatch my eggs this day — 
I have lent my white breast 
To the girl with the red hair,' " 

Then he nodded again, and said : 


" What did the heron say ? 
' Kray ! kray 1' (said the heron; 
' Poor is my fishing in the loch this day — 

I have lent my long, straight leg 

To the girl with the red hair.' " 

With that, he flung down the shears and laughed 
till the tears were in his eyes. Eiradli felt angry and 
ashamed, and went away. 

But for all that, she was not ill pleased. Listening 
to Oalum Eachern had been like sitting out of doors 
on a bright, sunny day. It made her heart light. All 
the niffht long she thought of his talk. She had nev- 


er heard talcs like those before — all about brightness 
and a pleasant place. When she went to sleep, she 
dreamed she was in an enchanted castle, all made 
of 'silver mines and ])recious stones, and that Calum 
Eachern was showing her a fountain full of gold fish, 
and the fountain seemed to fall in rhyme. All at 
once, Calum laughed so loud that the castle was 
broken into a thousand pieces, and when she woke up 
it was bright day. 

The day after that, who should come into the house 
but Calum Eachern. "A blessing on this house ! " 
said he, and he sat down beside the fire. Eiradh was 
putting the potatoes in the big pot, and Calum pointed 
at the pot, and said : 

" Totoman, totoman, 
Little black man. 
Three foot under 
And bonnet of wood !" 

Eiradh laughed at the riddle. Then Calum, 
seeing she was pleased, began to talk and sing, 
putting his head on one side and laughing. All at 


once he said, looking quite serious, "It's not much 
company you will be having here, Eiradli Nicra- 

" That's true enough," said Eiradh. 

" It's a dull house that is without the cry of hairns, 
I'm thinkiniT," 

" And that's true, too," said Eiradh. 

" Then why don't you take a man ? " said he, look- 
ing at her very sharp. 

Eiradh gave her head a toss, and lifted up tlic lid 
of the pot to look in. 

" Your cheek is like a rose for redness," said Caluni. 
" Are ye ashamed to answer ? " 

At that Eiradh lifted up her head and looked him 
straight in the face. 

" The man is not born that I heed a straw," said 

Calum laughed out loud to hear her say that, and a 
little after he went away. 

Eiradh did not know whether she was pleased or 
angry, and all that night she had little sleep. She 
did not like to be laughed at, and yet she could not 
be rightly angry with such a merry fellow as Calum. 
It seemed strange to her that he should come to the 
house at all. 

It seemed stranger, the next night, when Calum 
came in again, and sat down by the fire. 

" How does the Lord use you this night, Eiradh 
Nicraonail ? " 

" The Lord is good," answered Eiradh. 

^* Can you read print ? " he said, smiling. 

'* Ay," answered Eiradh, " print, and writing too.'* 


" And that's a comfort,'' said Calum. " But IVe 
brought you somebody to sit with ye by the fire in the 
long nights." 

" And what's he like ? " asked Eiradh, thinking 
Calum meant himself. 

" He's not over fine to look at, but he's mighty 
learned. He's a little old man with a leather skin, 
and his name written on his face, and the marks o' 
thumbs all over his inside." 

" And where is he this night ? " 

" This is him, and here he is, and many a merry 
thing he'll teach you, if you attend to his talking," 
said Calum ; and he gave her a little book in the 
Gaelic, very old, and covered with black print ; and 
soon after that he went away. 

"When he was gone, Eiradh sat down by the fire 
and turned over the leaves of the book that he had 
given her, and it seemed like the voice of Calum talk- 
ing in her ear. There were stories about the fairies 
and the men of peace, and shieling songs of the south 
country, and riddles for the fireside in the south coun- 
try on Ilalloween. Eiradh read till she was tired, 
and some of the stories made her laugh afterward, as 
she sat by the fireside with her cheek on her hand. She 
could not help thinking that it would be fine to live 
in the south country, where there was corn growing 
everywhere, and gardens full of flowers, and no sea. 

After that Cahnn Eachern came often to the house, 
and Eiradh did not tell him to stay away. Some of 
the folk said : " Calum Eachern has a bad name," and 
bade Eiradh beware, because he had a false tongue. 
Eiradh laughed, and said: " I fear the tongue of no 


man." Every night she read the printed book, till 
ehe knew it from the first page to tlie last, and when 
Bhe was ah)ne, she wonld sing hits of tlie songs to 
Calum Eachem's tunes. Sometimes she wouhl stand 
on the seashore, and look out across the water, and 
wonder what like was the country on the other side 
of the Rlui. In those davs she was sick of Canna, and 
thought to herself: " If I was living in the south 
country, I should not be afraid of them that are 
dead ; " and she remembered Calum's words : " It's 
not much company you will be having here, Eiradh 

One night there was a boat from Tvree in the har- 
bor, and when Caliun came in late, Eiradh knew that 
he had been drinking with the Tyree men. Ilis face 
was red, and his breath smelt strong of the drink. 
He tried hard to get his will of her that night, but 
Eiradh was a well-doing girl, and pushed him out of 
the house. She was angry, and fit to cry, thinking of 
the words : " Calum Eachem has a bad name." That 
night she had a dream. She thought she was walk- 
ing by the side of the sea, on a light night, and she 
had a bairn in her arms, and she was giving it the 
breast. As she walked, she could hear the ghost of 
the lady crying in the tower. Then she felt the babe 
she carried as heavy as lead, and it spoke with a man's 
voice, and had white teeth ; and when she looked at 
its face, it was Calum's face, laughing, all cocked on 
one side. With that she woke. 

When she saw Calem next, he hung down his 
head, and looked so strange and sad that she could 
not help laughing as she passed by. Then he ran 


after, and she turned upon hiui full of anger. But 
Calum had a smooth toniijue, and she soon forgot her 
anger listening to one of his tales. She liked him 
best of all that day, for he was quiet and serious, and 
never laughed once. Eiradh thought to herself: 
*' The man is no worse than other men, and drink 
will change a wise man into a fool." 

Calum never tried to wrong her again, but one night 
he spoke out plain, and asked her to marry him, and 
go home with him in a Canna boat to the south. It 
was a long; while ere Eiradh answered a word. She 
sat with her cheek on her hand, looking at the fire, 
and thinking of the night her mother died, and of her 
father and brothers that were drowned, and of the 
voices that came to her out of the sea. It was a 
rough night, and the wind blew sharp from the east, 
and she could hear the water at the door. Then 
she looked at Calum, and he had a bright smile, 
and held out his hand. But she only said : " Go 
away this night ; " and he went away without a word. 
All night long she thought of his words : " It's a 
dull house without the cry of bairns," and she remem- 
bered the days when her mother used to nurse her, 
and her father cut her the crutch of wood with his 
own hands. Next morning the sea was still, and the 
light was the color of gold on the land beyond the 
Rhu. That day the folk seemed sharp and cold, 
and more than one mocked her with the name of 
Calum ; so that she said to herself, " They shall not 
mock me without a cause ; " and when Calum came 
to her the next night, she said she would be his 
good wife. 

EIHADII Ol' OANNA.. l'''''^ 

Soon after that Calum Eacliern and Eiradh Nic- 
raonail were married by the priest from Skye ; and 
the day they married they went on board a Canna 
smack that was sailing south. An okl man from 
Tyree was at the helm, and she sat on her kist close 
to him. Calum sat up by the mast with the men, 
who were all Canna lads, and as thoy all talked to- 
gether, Calum whispered something and laughed, and 
all the lads looked at her and laughed too. Ciilum 
was full of drink. He had a bottle of whisky in 
the breast of his coat, and as the boat sailed out of 
the bay, he waved it to the folk on shore, and 
laughed like a wild man. 

Now Eiradh felt sadder and sadder as she saw Can- 
na growing farther and farther away ; for she thought 
of her father and mother, and of the graveyard on 
the hill. The more the thought, the more she felt 
the tears in her eyes and the stone in her tliroat. 
Going round the Rhu she had the sea-sickness, and 
thought she was going to die. Though she had dwelt 
beside the sea so many years, she had never sailed on 
the water in a boat. 


AYhere Calum Eachern lived, the folk had strange 
ways, and many of them had both the Gaelic and the 
Eno-lish. Their houses were whitewashed, and roofed 
with slate, and there was a long street, with shops 
full of all things that man could wish, and there was a 
house for the sale of drink. The roads were broad, 
and smooth as your hand, and on the sides of the 


hiJls were fields of com and potatoes. The sea was 
twenty miles away, but there was a burn, on the 
banks of which the women used to tread their clothes. 
Eiradh thought to herself, " It is not as fine a country 
as Calum said." 

Calum's house was the poorest house there. It had 
two rooms, and in the front-room Calum worked; 
the back-room was a kitchen, with a bed in the wall. 
Eiradh had brought with her some of the furniture 
from her father's house, and plenty of woolen woof 
made by her mother's own hands ; and she soon made 
the place pleasant and clean. They had not been 
home a day when the laird came in for the back rent 
that was due, and Eiradh paid the money out of her 
own store. She had the money in a stocking inside 
her kist, and some of it was in copper and silver, but 
there were pound notes, quite ragged and old with be- 
ing kept so many years. 

It would take me a long winter's night to tell all 
that Eiradh thought in those days. She was like one 
in a dream. She felt it strange to see so many people 
coming and going in and out of the shops and houses, 
and the crowds on market-days, and the great heap of 
eheep and cattle. The folk were civil and fair-spoken, 
but most of the men drank at the public-house. There 
was a man next door who would get mad-drunk every 
night he had the money, and it was a sad sight to see 
his wife's face cut and bruised, and the bairns at her 
side ciying for lack of food. Many of the men were 
weavers, and walked lame, as Eiradh used to do, and 
had pale, sickly faces, black under the eyes. The 
Gaelic they had was a different Gaelic from that the 


folk had in Canna, and sometimes EIradli conld not 
understand it at all. 

Kow, it was not lonp^ ere Eiradh found that Calum 
had a bad name in the place for drinking ; and be- 
sides, he had beguiled a servant lass the year before, 
under the promise of marriage. Eiradh thought of 
the night when lie had come drunk to the house, but 
she said nothing to Calum. She would sit and watch 
him for hours, and wonder she had thought him so 
bright and free ; for she soon saw he was a double 
man, with a side for his home and another for stran- 
gers; and the fii*st side was as dull as the second was 
bright. lie never raised his hand to her in those 
days, and was sober ; but he would sit with a silent 
tongue, and sometimes give her a strange look. Eiradh 
thought to herself, " Calum is like the south country, 
and looks brightest to them that are farthest away." 

Ayear after they had come to the south coimtry, Cal- 
um turned his front room into a shop, and made Eiradh 
look after it while he was at work. The goods were 
bought with her own good money, and were tea, sugar, 
tobacco, and meal. The first month Eiradh got all 
her money back. It was pleasant to sit there and 
sell, and know that she made a profit on each thing 
she sold ; and Calum was light and merry, when he 
saw that his idea had turned out well. Eiradh's 
health was not so good in those days, and she had no 

After that came days of trouble, for Calum grew 

worse and worse. He would take the money that 

Eiradh had earned, and spend it in the public-house ; 

and when he came home in drink, he raised his hand 


to lier more than once. Then Eiradh thought to her- 
self, " My father did not love me, but he never struck 
me a blow ; there is not a man in Canna who would 
lift his hand to a woman." After tliat she took no 
pleasure in trade, but would sit with a sick face and 
a silent tongue, thinkincc of Canna in the sea. Calum 
liked her the less because she did not complain. One 
day he told her he did not many her for herself, but 
for the money she had saved ; and this was a sore 
thing to say to her ; but though the tears made her 
blind, she only looked at him and did not answer a 
word. There was some of the money left in her kist, 
but she never cared to look at it after what Calum 
had said. 

After the day he married Eiradli, Calum had never 
left his home to work through the country as he once 
did. But one night late in the year he said he must 
go south on business, and in the morning he went 
away. Eiradh never saw him again on this side the 
narrow house. lie went straight to the big city of 
Glasgow, and there he met the lass he had beguiled 
the year he married Eiradh, and the two sailed over 
the seas to Canada. The news came quick to Eiradh 
by the mouth of one who saw them on the quay. 

One would need the tongue of a witch to tell all 
Eiradh's thoughts in those days. The first news 
seemed like the roar of the sea the time her brothers 
died, and the words stopped in her ears like the cry- 
ing of the water day and night. Slie felt ashamed to 
show herself in the street, and she could not bear the 
comfort of the good wives ; for they all said, " Calum 
had ever a bad name," and she remembered how tlie 


folk in Canna had used the same words. She would 
sit with her apron over her face, and greet* for hours 
with no noise. It seemed dreadful to he there in the 
south country, without friend or kindred, and the folk 
havino* a different Gaelic from her own. She felt 
sick and stupid, just like herself when she would cry 
night and day from the cradle, without strength to 
run upon her feet. She thought to herself, " I may 
cry till my heart breaks now, but no one heeds;" 
and the thought brought up the picture of her mother 
lying in the bed all white, and made her cry the 
more. Kow, in those days voices came about her 
that belonged to another land, and the faces of her 
father and mother went past her like the white break- 
ing of a wave on the beach in the night. She had 
dreams whenever she slept, and in every one of her 
dreams she heard the souirh of the sea. 

But Eiradh Eachern was a well-doing lass, and had 
been bred to face trouble when it came. Her lirst 
thought was this : " I will go back to Canna in the 
sea, and w^ork for my bread in the fields." But when 
she looked in the kist, she found that Calum had been 
there and taken away all the good money out of the 
stocking, and a picture beside of the Virgin Mary, set 
round with yellow gold and precious stones the 
color of blood. Now, this grieved Eiradh most. 
She did not heed the money so much, but the picture 
had belonged to her mother, and she would not have 
parted with it for hundreds of pounds. She felt a 
sharp thread run through her heart, and she was sick 
for pain. 

* Weep. 


It is a wonder how much trouble a strong man 
or woman in good health can bear when it comes. 
Eiradii thought to herself at first, " I shall die; " but 
she did not die. The Lord was not willing that she 
should be taken away then. He spared her, as he 
had spared her in her sickness when a bairn at the 

One day a neighbor came in and said, "Will 
you not keep open the shop the same as before? 
You have always paid for your goods, and those that 
sent them will not press for payment at first." 
Now, Eiradh had never thought of that, and her 
heart lightened. That same day she got the 
schoolmaster to write a letter, in the English, to 
the big city, asking goods. The next week the 
goods came. 

Then Eiradh thought, "God has not forsaken 
me," and worked hard to put all in order as before. 
Many folk came and bought from her, out of kind- 
ness at first, but afterward because they said she 
was a just woman, and gave full value for their 
money. All this gladdened her heart. She said, 
" God helps those that are fallen," and every penny 
that she earned seemed to have the blessing of 

In those times she would lock up the house when 
the day was done, and walk by herself along the 
side of the burn ; for the sound of the water seemed 
like old times ; and when the moon came out on the 
r^rcen fields, they looked for all the world like smooth 
water. Yoices from another land came to her, and 
spirits passed before her eyes ; so that she often thought 


to hereelf, " I wonder how Canna looks this night, 
and whether it is storm or calm ?" 

I might talk till the snmmcr came, and not tell 
you half of the many thoughts Eiradh had in the 
south country. She loved to sit by herself, as when 
she was a child; and the folk thought her a dull 
woman, with a white face. The women said, " Calum 
Eachern's wife has the greed of money strong in her 
heart, but she is a just-dealing woman." It was 
true that Eu-adh found pleasure in trade, and would 
not sell to those who did not come to buy money in 
hand. Every piece she saved she put in the stocking 
in the old kist, and every week she counted it out in 
her lap. 

So the time passed, and sometimes Eiradh could 
hardly call up right the memory of Calum's face. It 
seemed like a dream. These were the days of her 
prosperity, and every week she saved something, and 
every second Sabbath she saw the priest. Now, the 
folk in those parts had a religion of their own, and 
did not believe in the Virgin Mary or the Pope of 
Rome. Some of them were worse than that, and did 
not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. All the chil- 
dren had the English as well as the Gaelic ; and the 
preachings were in the English, and the English was 
taught in the school. But all the time she lived in 
the south Eiradh could not speak a word of that 
tongue. It seemed to her like the chirping of birds, 
with little meaning and a heap of sound. 

All the years Eiradh sat in the shop, the Lord 
drew silver threads in her hair, and made lines like 
pencil-marks over her face ; and when she was thirty- 


five years of age her sight failed her, and she had to 
wear glasses. She had little sickness, but she stooped 
in the shoulders, and had a dry cough. In those days 
she did not go out of the house at night, but sat over 
the fire reading the book Caluin had given her long 
years before. The leaves of the book were all black 
and torn, and many of the pages were gone. Every 
time she looked at it she thought of old times. She 
had little pleasure in the tales and riddles of the 
south country — all about brightness and a pleasant 
place ; for she thought to herself, " The tales are all 
lies, and the south country looks brightest far off, and 
the folk do not believe in the Virgin Mary or the 
saints," For all that, she liked to look at the old 
book ; and let her thoughts go back of their own ac- 
cord, like the flowing of water in a bum. Best of all, 
she loved to coimt the bright money into her lap, and 
think how the neighbors j^raised her as a just-dealing 
woman who throve well. 


The years went past Eiradh Eachem like the waves 
breaking on the shore, and the days were as like each 
other as the waves breaking, and she could not coimt 
them at all. She was like the young maii that went 
to sleep on the Island of Peace, and had a dream of 
watching the fairy people, and when he woke he was 
old and frail upon his feet. Eiradh was fifty years of 
age when she counted the money in her kist for the 
last time, and found that she had put by a hundred 
and twenty pounds in good money. That night she 


sat with the heap of money in her lap, and the salt 
tears running down her elieeks, and her bottom-lip 
quivering like the witliercd leaf on the bough of a 

Now, all these years Eiradh had one thought, and 
it was this: "Before I die, I will go back to Canna 
in the sea." Every day of her life slie fancied she 
saw the picture of the green cliffs covered with goats 
and sheep, and the black scarts sitting on the weedy 
rocks in a row, and the sea rising and falling like 
the soft breasts of a woman in sound sleep. Every 
ni<iht of her life she had a dream of her father's 
house by the shore, and the water crying at the 
door. It seemed ever calm weather to her thoughts, 
and the sea was kinder and sweeter than when she 
was a child. Eiradh often thought to herself, " The 
water took away my five brothei*s, and close to the 
water my father and mother closed their eyes ;" and 
the more she thought of them sleeping, the less she 
was afraid. 

So when she had saved one hundred and twenty 
pounds in good money, she felt that she could abide 
no longer in the south country. The more she tried 
to stay a little longer, the more voices from another 
land came to her, saying, " Eiradh, Eiradh ! go back 
to Canna in the sea." At last she had a dream ; and 
she thought she was lying in her sowe* in a dark 
land, waiting to be laid in the earth. All at once she 
felt herself rocking up and down, and heard the sound 
of the sea crying, and when she put out her hand at 

* Sliroud. 


her side it was dripping wet. Then Eiradh knew 
that she was drifting in a boat, and tlie boat was a 
coffin witli the lid off, and thougli there was a strong 
wind she floated on the waves like a cork. All nijxht 
long she floated and never saw land ; only a light 
shining far, far ofi", over the dark water. When she 
woke she was sore troubled, and said to herself, " It is 
my wraith that I saw, and unless I haste I may never 
see my home again." 

After that she never rested till she had sold the 
trade of her shop in the south country, and all she 
kept to herself was the old kist full of her clothes and 
the money she had saved. But she made a pouch of 
leather with her own hands, and put the money in it, 
and fastened the pouch to her waist underneath her 
clothes, and the only thing in the pouch beside the 
money was the old book in the Gaelic Calum had 
given her when she was a young woman. 

I have told you that the place was twenty miles 
from the sea. One day she put her kist in a cart that 
was going that way, and the day after she took the 
road. It was a fine morning, early in the year. 
"When she got to the top of the hill, and saw the place 
below her where she had lived so long, all asleep and 
still, with the smoke going straight up out of the 
houses, and not a soul in the street, it seemed like a 
dream. As she went on, the country was strange, 
but it looked finer and bonnier than any country she 
had ever seen. Now, her heart was so light that day 
that she could walk like a strong man. The sun came 
out, and the birds sang, and the land was green, and 
wherever she went the sheep cried. Eiradh thought 


to herself, "My dream was true after all, and the 
south country is a pleasant place." 

For all that she was weary hif^ to see Canna in the 
sea, and wondering if it was the same all those years. 
She counted on her fingers the names of the folks she 
knew, and wondered how many were dead. Every 
one of them seemed like a friend. She was keen to 
hear her own Gaelic again after so many years in a 
foreign land. 

She walked twelve miles that day, and slept at a 
farm by the road at night. The next day she saw 
the sea. 

It was good weather, and the sea was covered with 
fishing-boats and ships. She could hear the sough of 
the water a long way off, and it seemed like old 
times. There was a bit village on the shore, full of 
fisher-folk, and the houses minded her of those where 
she was born. There were skiflfs drawn up on the 
shore, and nets put out to dry, and the air was full of 
the smell of fish. 

She slept in the house of a fisher-woman that night, 
and the next day a fishing-boat took her out to catch 
the big steamboat to Tobermory. It was the first 
time that Eiradh had seen a boat like that, and it 
seemed to her like a great beast panting and groan- 
ing, and swimming through the water with fins and 
tail. It was full of the smell of fish, and the decks 
were covered with herring-barrels, and where there 
were no herring-barrels there were cattle and sheep. 
In one part of the boat there was a long box like a 
coffin, covered over with a piece of tarpaulin to keep 
it dry ; and one of the sailors told Eiradh that it held 


the dead body of an old man fro:n Skye, who had 
died on the Firth o' Clyde, and was being carried 
home to be buried with his kindred at home. Eiradli 
said, "It is a sad thing to be buried far away from 
kindred ;" and she thought to herself, " If I had died 
in the south country, there would have been no kin 
or friend to carry me to Canna in theeea." 

Neither wind nor tide could keep the big steam- 
boat back ; so wonderful are the works of the hand of 
man, when God is willing. Late at night Eiradh 
landed at Tobermory in Mull, but the moon was 
bright, and she saw that the bay was full of fishing- 
boats at anchor. Eiradh wondered to herself if any 
of the boats were from Canna. 

She got a lodging in the inn that night, and the 
next morning she went down to the shore. There 
were heaps of fishennen on the beach, and many of 
them passed her the sign of the day, but none of them 
seemed to have her own Gaelic. Then Eiradh said, 
"Is there a Canna boat in the bay?" and they said, 
" Ay," and pointed out a big smack with her sails up, 
and a great patch on the mainsail. The skipper of the 
smack was on shore, and his name was Alastair. He 
was a big black- whiskered man, with large silly eyes 
like a seal's. Eiradh minded him well, thouirh ho 
was a laddie when she left, and went up and called 
him by his name, but he stared at her and shook hia 
head. Then Eiradh said, "Do you mind Eiradh 
JSTicraonail, who dwelt in the small house by the sea ?" 
and the man laughed, and asked after Calum Eachern. 
Eiradh told him her troubles, and got the promise of 
a passage to Canna that day. 


EIllAJjll or CANNA. 187 

In the afternoon it l)lc\v hard from the cast, but 
Eiradli went on board the smack with lier hist. 
They ran out of tlio Sound of Mull with the wind, and 
kept in close to the E,hu, for the sake of smootli water. 
Kiradh felt a heavines;^ and pain about her heart, and 
sat on the kist with her head leanino; aijainst the side 
of the boat. She had a touch of the sea-sickness, but 
that passed away. 

Alastair steered the smack on Ihe west side of Eiir, 
and the squalls came so sharp off the Scaiir that they 
had to take down the topsail. As they sailed in the 
smooth water on the lee side of Eig Eiradh asked 
about the Canna folk she had known, and most of 
thetn were dead and buried. Then she asked about 
the old man who had taught her to read and write, 
and he was dead too. Many of the young folk had 
gone away across the ocean, to work among strangers 
and wander in a foreign land. 

The heart of Eiradh sank to hear the news ; for she 
thought to herself, " Every face will be as strange as 
the faces in the south." Then Alastair, seeing she 
put her hand to her heart, said, " What ails ye, wife ? 
are you sick?" Eiradh nodded, and leant her head 
over the boat, looking at the sea. 

A little after that the smack rounded the north end 
of Rum, and Eiradh saw Canna in the sea, just as 
she had left it Ions: aa:o. There was a shower all over 

CD " 

the ocean, but the green side of Canna was shining 
with the light through a cloud. Eiradh looked and 
looked ; for there was not an inch of the green land 
but she knew by heart. 

The wind blew fresh and keen, and they had to 


lower the pealc of the mainsail running for the har- 
bor. Eiradh saw the tower, all gray and wet in the 
rain, and she thought she heard the lady's voice call- 
ins: as in old times. Then she looked over to the 
month of Loch Scavaig, thinking to herself, " There 
is the place where my brothers were lost !" and that 
brought up the picture of her father, sitting dead on 
the cliffs and looking out to sea. Eiradh's eyes were 
blind with tears, and she could not see Canna any 
more ; but as they ran round into the bay, her eyes 
cleared, and she saw lier home close by the water-side, 
with the roof all gone, and the walls broken down, and 
a cow looking out of the door. 

A little after that, when the anchor was down and 
the mainsail lowered, Alastair touched Eiradh on the 
arm, thinking she was asleep, for she was leaning back 
with her face in her cloak. Then he drew back the 
cloak and saw her face with a strange smile on it, and 
the eyes wide open. Though he was a big man, he 
was scared, and called out to his mates, and an old 
man among them said, " Sure enough she is dead." 
So they carried her body ashore in their boat, and put 
it in one of the houses, and sent word to the laird. 

Eiradh Eachern had died of the same disease that 
killed her mother. She had o'er many thoughts to 
live long, and she knew the name of trouble. In her 
kist they found her grave-clothes all ready made and 
neatly worked with her own hands, and they buried 
her on the hill-side close to her father and mother. 
May the Lord God find her ready there to answer to 
her name at the Last Day I 




Gloomy Prophecies— TeiTora of the llincb— The Viking— Hamish Shaw, 
the Pilot— Leaving Cauna Harbor — Pictures of Skye and the Cuchul- 
lins — Remarks on Sir Walter Scott and his Poems — Afloat on the Minch 
^The Far-off Isles — Twilight — Ilamish Shaw at the Helm — Summer 
Night — Talk about Ghosts and Superstitions — The Evil Eye— The 
Death-Cry — Wiud Rising — Wind and Mist— Water-Snakes— Midnight— 
The Strange Ship — Peep o' Day — The Red Buoy — Anchorage in Loch 

" She is a poor thing, a bit toy ! " said the captain 
of the Lowland trader, regarding the Tern from the 
deck of his big vessel, while we lay in Canna harbor. 
" She's no' for these seas at all ; and the quicker ye 
are awa' hame wi' her round the Khu ye'll be the 
wiser. She should never hae quitted the Clyde." 

Set by the side of the trader's great hull, she cer- 
tainly looked a " toy " — so tiny, so slight, with her 
tapering mast and slender spars. To all our enumer- 
ation of her good qualities, the captain merely replied 
an incredulous " oomph," and assured us that, were 
she as " good as gold," the waters of the Minch would 
drown her like a rat, if there was any wind at all. 
Few yachts of twice her tonnage, and twice her beam, 
ever dared to show their sails on tlie outside of Skye, 
and the wiser they, tliought the captain. Why, 
even he, in his great vessel, which was like a rock in 


the water, had seen such sights out there as had 
made his hair stand on end ; and he launched into a 
series of awful tales, showing how he had driven 
from the point of Sleat to Isle Omsaj, "up to his 
neck " in the sea ; how a squall off Dunvegan Head 
liad carried away his topmast, broken liis mainsail- 
boom, and swept his decks clean of boats and rubbish, 
all at one fell crash ; and he added numberless other 
terrific things, all tending to show that we were like- 
ly to get into trouble, When he heard that we actu- 
ally purposed crossing to Boisdale, and beating up 
along the shores of the Long Isles, as far as Storno- 
way, he set us down as madmen at once, and conde- 
scended to no more advice. After that, till the mo- 
ment we sailed, he regarded us from tlie side of his 
vessel in a solemn sort of way, as if we were people 
going to be hung, and well deserving of our fate. 
Ton see, he was getting gray and cautious — his blood 
lacked phosphorus, his heart fire. 

He frightened us a little, though. The Wanderer, 
wlio had planned the expedition, looked at the skipper, 
or the Viking, as we got into the habit of calling 
him, because he wasn't like one. The Viking, who 
had never before ventured with a yacht beyond the 
Clyde, was very pale, and only wanted encourage- 
ment to turn tail and fly. But Ilamish Shaw, the 
pilot, setting his lips together, delivered himself so 
violently against flight, vowed so staunchly that, hav- 
ing come thus far, we must proceed, or be forever- 
more branded as jjretenders, and finally swore round- 
ly by his reputation as a seaman to carry us safely 
through all difiiculties, that even the Viking shook 


his liorrent locks, and became, for tlie instant, nearly 
as reckless as he looked. " Nothinj?," said the Yikinir, 
in a glow of intense ardor, " nothing gives me so much 
pleasure as tearing through the sea, with the wind 
blowing half a gale, and the boat's side buried to tlie 

We had all great confidence in Hamish Shaw, for 
two very good reasons : first, because he had long 
been accustomed to sailing all sorts of boats in those 
waters; and second, because he was thoroughly 
plucky, steady as a rock, and cool as snow, in times 
of peril. Again and again, during the voyage, did 
we find reason to bless ourselves that we had such a 
man on board. He was fond of talk, and had much 
to say well worth listening to, but at critical moments 
he was like the sphinx, only rather more active. To 
sec him at the helm, with his eye on the water, stead- 
ily helping the little craft through a tempestuous sea, 
bringing her bow up to the billows, and burying it in 
them whenever they would have drowned her broad- 
side, or sliai'j)ly watching the water to windward, 
with the great mainsail-sheet in his hand, shaking 
her through the squalls oif a mountainous coast — 
these are things worth seeing, things that make one 
proud of the race. As for the Viking, although he 
had considerable experience in sailing in smooth 
water, and although he was a very handy fellow in 
the ship-carpenter's line, he was nowhere when it be- 
gan to blow. The Wanderer could do a little in an 
emergency, but his nautical knowledge was very 
slight, just enabling him to distinguish one rope from 
another, if he was not particularly hurried in his 


movements. ITow, the cook (as you have guessed 
from the beginning) was a lady, and, of course, could 
be of no use on deck in bad weather, although, as 
Hamish Shaw expressed it, she showed a man's spirit 
throughout the whole voyage. 

In plain point of fact, there was only one thorough- 
bred sailor on board, only one man thoroughly com- 
petent to act on his own responsibility during a great 
emergency ; and as he had only one pair of hands, 
and could not be everywhere at the same moment, 
'twas a miracle that the Tern escaped destruction on 
more than one occasion. But (as the female novel- 
ists used to say) we anticipate. 

As the distance from Canna to Loch Boisdalo, the 
nearest pomt in the outer Hebrides, was about thirty 
miles, all quite open water, without the chance of any 
kind of harbor, and as the Tern^ even with a fair 
wind, could not be expected to run more than five or 
six miles an hour in a sea, it was advisable to choose 
a good day for the passage. As usual in such cases, 
we began by being over-cautious, and ended by being 
over-impatient. This day was too calm, that day was 
too windy. We ended by doing two things which we 
had begun by religiously vowing not to to do — never 
to start for a long passage except at early morning ; 
never to venture on such a passage without a fair 
wind. "We weighed anchor at about two o'clock in 
the afternoon, with the wind blowing nothwest — 
nearly dead in our teeth. 

But it was a glorious day, sunny and cheerful ; the 
clouds were high and white, and the waters were 
sparkling and flashing far as the eye could see. The 


little Tern seemed to catcli the f^lee. Directly the wind 
touched her white wings, she slipped through the har- 
bor with rapid flight, plunged splashing out at the 
harbor mouth, and was soon swimming far out in the 
midst of the ocean, happy, eager, tilting the waves 
from her breast like a beautiful swimmer in his 
strength. Next to the rapturous enjoyment of having 
wings one's self, or being able to sport among tlie waves 
like a great northern diver, is the pleasure of sailing, 
during such weather, in a boat like the Tern. The 
blood is sparkling, but the brain is at work, beating 
steady as a pulse, under thoughts that come and go 
like the glimmer of foam and light. 

Canna never looked more beautiful than that day — 
her cliffs were wreathed into wondrous forms and 
tinctured with deep ocean-dyes, and the slopes above 
were rich and mellow in the light. Beyond her was 
Kum, always the same, a dark beauty with a gentle 
heart. But what most fascinated the eye was the 
southern coast of Skye, lying ou the starboard bow 
as we were beatinj; northward. The Isle of Misf*^ 
was clear on that occasion, not a vapor lingering on 
the heights, and although it must be admitted that 
much of its strange and eerie beauty was lost, still 
we had a certain gentle loveliness to supply its place. 
Could that be Skye, the deep coast full of rich, warm 
under-shadow, the softly-tinted hills, " nakedly visible, 
Avithout a cloud," sleeping against the " dim, sweet 
harebell-color" of the heavens? Where was the 

* This name is purely Scandinavian — Sky signifying " cloud ;" 
■wlience, too, our own word " sky," the under, or vapor, heaven- 


thunder-cloud, tlie weeping shadows of the cirrus, the 
white flashes of cataracts through the black smoke of 
rain on the mountain-side? Were those the Cuchul- 
lins — the ashen-gray heights turning to solid amber 
at the peaks, with the dry seams of torrents softening 
in the sunliglit to golden shades ? Why, Blaven, 
witli its hooked forehead, would have been bare as 
Primrose Hill, save for one sliglit white wreath of va- 
por that, glittering with the hues of the prism, float- 
ed gently away to die in the delicate blue. Dark 
were the headlands, yet warmly dark, projecting into 
the sparkling sea and casting summer shades. Skye 
was indeed transformed, yet its beauty still remained 
spiritual, still it kept the faint feeling of the glamour. 
It looked like witch-beauty, wondrous and unreal. 
You felt that an instant might change it — and so it 
might and did. Ere we had sailed many miles away, 
Skye was clouded over with a misty woe, her face 
was black and wild, she sobbed in the midst of the 
darkness with the voice of falling rain and moaning 

Sir Walter Scott, in his notes made during a High- 
land tour, describes this western coast of Skye as 
" highly romantic, and at the same time displaying a 
richness of vegetation in the lower ground to which we 
have hitherto been strangers ;" adding, " We passed 
three salt-water lochs, or deep embayments, called 

Loch Bracadale, Loch Einort, and Loch , and 

about eleven o'clock opened up Loch Scavaig. We 
were now mider the western termination of the high 
range of mountains called Guillen, or Quillin or 
Ooolin, whose weather-beaten and serrated peaks we 


luui admired at a distance from Dunvogan. They 
sank hero npon the sea, but with the same bold and 
peremptory aspect which their distant appearance 
Indicated. The tops of the ridge, apparently inacces- 
sible to human foot, were rent and split into the most 
tremendous pinnacles. Toward the base of these 
bare and precipitous crags, the ground, enriched by 
the soil washed down from them, is comparatively 
verdant and productive." And he goes on, in the 
same gazetteer style, to describe Loch Scavaig and 
Loch Corruisk, just as if he were Brown or Robinson, 
and not the second name in the great roll of glorious 
creators. Nor is he much more felicitous in his treat- 
ment of the same theme in verse. This is his poetic 
description of Loch Corruisk, and it is quoted with 
enthusiasm in every guide-book : 

" Awhile tlieir route they silent made. 

As lucu who stalk for mountain-deer, 
Till the g(X)d Bruce to Ronald said, 

' St. Mary ! what a scene is here I 
I've traversed many a mountain-strand, 
Abroad, and in my native land. 
And it has been my lot to tread 
Where safety more than pleasure led. 
Thus, many a waste I've wandered o'er, 
Clomb many a crag, crossed many a moor. 

But, by my halidome, 
A Bcene bo rude, so wild as this, 
Yet so sublime in barrenness, 
Ne'er did my wandering footsteps press 

Where'er I happ'd to roam.' 



" Xo marvel thus the Monarch spake ; 

For rarely human eye has known 
A scene so stern as that dread hike, 

Witli its dark ledge of barren stone. 
Seems that primeval earthquake's sway 
Hath rent a strange and shattered way 

Through the rude bosom of the hill, 
And that each naked precipice, 
Sable ravine, and dark abyss. 

Tells of the outrage still. 
The wildest glen, but this, can show 
Some touch of Nature's genial glow ; 
On high Benmore green mosses grow. 
And heath-bells bud in deep Glencoo, 

And copse on Cruchan-Ben ; 
But here — above, around, below, 

On mountain or in glen — 
Nor tree, nor shrub, nor plant, nor flower. 
Nor aught of vegetative power, 

The weary eye may ken. 
For all is rocks at random thrown, 
Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone. 

As if were here denied 
The summer sun, the spring's sweet dew. 
That clothe with many a varied hue 

The bleakest mountain-side. 


' And wilder, forward as they wound. 
Were the proud cliffs and lake profound. 
Huge terraces of granite black 
Afforded rude and cumbered track ; 

For from the mountain hoar. 
Hurled headlong in some night of fear, 
When yelled the wolf, and fled the doer. 

Loose crags had toppkid o'er ; 


And RonK", chanco-poiscd and balanced, lay 
So that a Btrii^lin^ arm niij^ht sway 

A mass no liost could raise, 
In Nature's range at random thrown, 
Yet trembling like the Druid's stone 

On its i)recarious base. 
The evening mists, with ceaseless change, 
Now clothed the mountains' lofty range. 

Now left their foreheads l)are, 
And round the skirts their mantle furled. 
Or on the sable waters curled, 
Or on the eddying breezes whirled, 

Dispersed in middle air. 
And oft, condensed, at once they lower. 
When, brief and fierce, the mountain shower 

Pours like a torrent down ; 
And when return the sun's glad beams. 
Whitened with foam a thousand streams 

Leap from the mountain's crown." 

Bmcc might sv/ear himself lioarse " by his hali- 
dome" crc we could admit that the above was mucli 
more than the dryest verbiage. Yet the general fea- 
tures of the landscape are caught as in a photograph, 
with a bald fidelity which is characterestic of all Sir 
AValter's efforts in verse, and is noteworthy as having 
won for itself the special praise of Mr. Ruskin. "We 
shall have something to say of Corruisk in good time, 
and it will not be difficult to deny that "Walter Scott 
felt the spirit of the wild scenes at all — so totally out 
of harmony with nature is his verbose enumeration of 
details. Sliakspeare, with his faultless vision, would 
not have failed to see Con'uisk as it is, and to picture 
it in true emotional colors, but perhaps only Shelley, 
of all our poets, could have felt it to the true spiritual 
height and blended it into music, thought, and dream. 


AVith the same felicity in prose and verse, Sir "Wal- 
ter, in the already-quoted extract from his journal, 
talks of the Coolins having a ^^ peremptory aspect^ 
which their distant appearance indicated " (\vc cannot 
construe this sentence), and in an easy, general way, 
speaks of the scenery of the neighborhood as " highly 
romantic." Is "peremptory," then, the adjective to 
apply to yonder peaks ? Do the ghost-world, the 
strange dreams we have in sleep, the creeping thoughts 
we have in death-chambers, the whisperings we liave 
from that " undiscovered country " — do all these 
things, any of these things, strike us as being " per- 
emptory V There is a perkish, commonplace, preten- 
tious air about that word, as applied to beautiful 
mountains. Like that other word, " romantic," it 
should be cut out of the poetic vocabulary. The bea- 
dle is " peremptory," and the sensation scenes at met- 
ropolitan theaters are " highly romantic." 

AVe were flying along quickly, and the breeze was 
heading us less and less. The sea still sparkled, far 
as the eye could see, a flashing surface — 

" Dappled o'er with shadows flung 
From many a brooding cloud ;" 

the wool-white cloud above, the soft shadow below. 
There was no danger, and the Viking was like a lion. 
All went merry as a marriage-bell. Picture after 
picture rose up, grew into perfect loveliness, and faded 
like a fairy palace into the air. Now it was Mac- 
Icod's Maidens, the three sister peaks on the western 
coast of Skye, linked together by a dim rainbow, and 
glimmering brightly through a momentary shower; 


again, it was the far-oiTmoiitli of Loch Bracndalc, rich 
in the darkest purple tints, with a real red-sailed fish- 
ing-hoat in the foreground, to bring out the picture, 
just as Turner would have placed it on the canvas ; 
and still again, it was the ('uchullins, already wreathed 
in mist, magnified to still more gigantic size by their 
own darkness, and looking as forlorn as if no sunlight 
had ever fallen on their livid brows. 

But more frequently, with keener interest, witli 
more anxious longing, our eyes were turned west- 
ward — to the far-off isles whither we were bound. 
We could see them better now, misted over by dis- 
tance — part of the Barra highland, the three great 
hills of Uist, and, dimmest of all, the high hills of 
Harris. As the vapors shifted on the coast, the shape 
of the land changed ; what liad looked like moun- 
tains, drifted awav before the wind ; what had seemed 
a cloud, outlined itself darkly and more darkly ; and, 
strange to say, the whole coast seemed, as we drew 
nearer, to retreat itself farther away, insomuch that 
when we had beaten ten or twelve miles of the actual 
distance to Loch Boisdale, the outer Hebrides looked 
as distant as ever, and we almost thought there must 
have been some mistake in our calculation of the num- 
ber of miles across. 

It was a strange feeling — riding out there in the 
open Minch in that little boat, and knovring that a 
storm, if it did catch us, would leave us little time to 
say our prayers. The vessel was too small and crank 
to " lie to," and, running before the wind, she would 
have drowned herself in no time. True, we had ex- 
temporized a kind of wooden scuttle for the cockpit, 


v/liicli inight be of service in a sea, and did actually 
save us from some peril ; but the boat, as llamish 
Shaw expressed it, wanted " body," and would never 
live out bad weather in the open. It was a wonder 
llamish ever accompanied us at all, he had such pro- 
found contempt for the Tem^ quite agreeing with the 
skipper in Canna that she was merely a toy, a play- 
thing. "We suppose, however, that he had confidence 
in himself, and knew that if any one could save her 
at a pinch, he could, 

AVe had started so late, that before we were half- 
way across it was growing quite dark. It promised 
to be a good night, however. The worst of our situa- 
tion just then was that the wind was beginning to 
fail, and we were making very little way through the 
rouffh roll of the sea. 

One certainly did not feel comfortable, tumbling 
out there in the deepening twilii;;ht, while the land on 
either side slowly mingled itself with the clouds. 
After taking our bearings by the compass, and getting 
a drop of something warm, we could do nothing but 
eit and wait for events. The Yiking was beginning 
to feel unwell. Shivering, he looked to windward, 
seeing all sorts of nameless horrors. Twenty times, at 
least, he asked llamish what kind of a night it prom- 
ised to be. Twice he rushed down to examine the 
weather-glass, an aneroid, and, to his horror, it was 
slowly sinking. Then he got lights, and buried him- 
self among the charts, feebly gazing at a blank space 
01 paper labeled, " The Minch." At last, unable to 
disguise it any longer, he began to throw out dark 
hints that we were doomed ; that it was madness sail- 


ing at night j that he had seen it from the beginning, 
and sliouhl not have ventured so far ; tliat ho knew 
from the color of the sky that we sliould have a storm 
that night; and that, only let him get safe back 
'round the Ehu," no temptation on earth should 
'hire him again beyond the Crinan Canal. 

But Hamish Shaw was in his glory. lie loved 
Bailing at night, and had been constantly nrging us 
into it. He had learned the habit as a fisherman — it 
was associated with much that was wildest and noblest 
in his life — and he was firmly persuaded that he could 
see his way anywhere in the waters, by night as well 
as by day. Owl-like, wakeful and vigilant, he sat at 
the helm, with his weather-beaten face looming 
through his matted ringlets, his black pipe set be- 
tween his teeth, and his eye looking keenly to wind- 
ward. He was not a sentimental man ; he did not 
care nmch for " scenery ;" but do you think there was 
no dreamy poetry in his soul, that he had no subtle 
pleasure, concealed almost from himself, as the heaven 
bared its glittering breast of .stars, and the water that 
darkened beneath reflected back the light, and the 
wind fell softly, till we could hear the deep breathing- 
of the sea itself? What memories drifted across his 
brain ! — of wild nights at the herring-fishing, of rain, 
Bnow, and wind, and of tender niglits in his Highland 
home, when he went courting, in Highland fashion, to 
the lassie's chamber-door ! He is a strange study, 
Hamish Shaw. To hear him speak directly of any 
scene he has visited, you would not credit him with 
any insight. But he sees more than he knows. His 

life is too full to take in separate effects, or to wonder 


anew. "What light he throws for us on old thoughts 
and stipei-stitions, on tender affections of the race ! 
His speech is full of water and wind. lie uses a fine 
phrase as' easily as nature fashions a bud or a leaf. 
He speaks in natural symbols, as freely as he uses an 
oar. His clear, fresh vision penetrates even into the 
moral world, quite open and fearless even there, where 
the best of us become purblind. 

"We have tried again and again, for our own 
amusement, to reproduce a few specimens of Shaw's 
English. He is a true Gael, and speaks a foreign 
tongue, acquired in early youth. His language is at 
once remarkable for its obscurity and the frequent use 
of big words, and yet for a strange felicity of verbal 
touch. He attaches a certain meaning of his own to 
words, and tries hard to be explicit. For example, 
speaking once of the Gaelic speech, and becoming 
warm in its praise, " The Gaelic," he said, " is a kind 
of guttural language, a principal and positive lan- 
guage ; a language, d'ye see ? full of himoledge and 
essoice.^^ It would be difficult to find anything ob- 
scurer than the beginning of the explanation, or more 
felicitous than its conclusion. The one word "es- 
sence " is perfect in its terse expression of meaning. 

" I'm of the opinion," said llamish, quietly survey- 
ing the heavens, " that the night will be good. Yen's 
a clear sky to windward, and there's nae carry. I 
would a heap sooner sail a craft like this by night than 
by day — the weather is more settled between gloam- 
ing and sunrise; and ye have one great advantage — 
the light is aye gaining on ye, instead o' the dark- 


" J3ut, Shaw, man," cried the Viking, " we arc 
creeping closer and closer to the land, and it will be 
a fearful businesa making it out in the mirk." 

Shaw shrugged his shoulders. 

" If we canna see it, we maun just smell it," ho 
said. "It's useless to fash your head." 

" A coast sown with rocks as thick as if they had 
been shaken out of a pepper-box 1 Reefs here, dan- 
ger everywhere ! And not a beacon nearer than Illui 
Ilunish lighthouse ! O my God ! " 

And the Viking wailed. 

By this time the summer night had quite closed in ; 
Canna and Skye had long faded out of sight behind 
us, but we could still make out the form of the land 
ahead. The wind was rising again, and blowing 
gently on our quarter, so that we bade fair to make 
the coast of the Long Island sooner than was advisa- 
ble. Still, it would have been injudicious to remain 
longer than was necessary out in the open ; for a 
storm might come on by morning, and our fate bo 
sealed. The best plan was to creep to within a couple 
of miles of the land, and hang about until we had 
sufficient daylight to make out our situation. It was 
even possible, if it did not get much darker, that wo 
might even be able to distinguish the mouth of Loch 
Boisdale in the night. 

The Viking plunged below to the charts, and, to 
while away the time, the Wanderer began talking to 
the steereman about superstition. It was a fine eerie 
situation for a talk on that subject, and the still sum- 
mer night, with the deep, dreary murmur of the sea, 
powerfully stimulated the imagination. 


"I say, ITamisli," said the Wanderer, abruptly, 
" do you believe in ghosts? " 

Ilamish puffed his pipe leisurely for some time be- 
fore replying, 

"I'm of the opinion," he replied at last, beginning 
with the expression habitual to him, "I'm of the 
opinion that there's strange things in the world. I 
never saw a ghost, and I don't expect to see one. If 
the Scripture says true — I mean the Scripture, no' 
the ministers — there has been ghosts seen before my 
time, and there may be some seen now. The folk 
used to say there was a Ben-sheein Skipness Castle — 
a Ben-shee with white hair and a mutch like an old 
wife — and my father saw it with his own een before 
he died. They're curious people over in Barra, and 
they believe stranger things than that." 

" In witchcraft, perhaps ? " 

" There's more than them believes in witchcraft. 
When I was a young man on board the Petrel (she's 
one of Middleton's fish-boats, and is over at Ilowth 
now), the winds were that wild there seemed sma* 
chance of winning liame before the new year. Weel, 
the skipper was a Skye man, and had great faith in an 
auld wife who lived alone up on the hillside ; and 
without speaking a word to any o' us, he went up to 
bid wi' her for a fair wind. He crossed her hand wP 
siller, and she told him to bury a live cat wi' its head 
to the airt wanted, and then to steal a spoon from 
some house and get awa'. He buried the cat, and 
he stole the spoon. It's curious, but, sure as ye 
live, the wind changed that night into the northwest, 
and never shifted till the Petrel was in Tobermory.'' 


"Once lot me be llio hero of an affair like that," 
cried tlic Wanderer, " and I'll believed in the devil for- 
ever after. But it was a queer process." 

" The ways o' God are droll," returned Shaw, seri- 
ously. " Some say that in old times the witches made 
a cause wav o' whales from E,liu llunisli to Dun vegan 
Head, There are auld wives o'er yonder yet who 
hae the name of going out with the Deil every night 
in the shape o' blue hares, and I kenned a man who 
thouo-ht he shot one wi' a siller button. I dinna be- 
lieve all I hear, but I dinna just disbelieve, either. 
Ye'vo heard o' the Evil Eye ? " 

" Certainly." 

" When we were in Canna, 1 noticed a fine cow and 
calf standing by a house near the kirkyard, and I said 
to the wife as I passed (she was syning her pails at 
the door) : ' Yon's a bonnie bit calf ye hae witlv the 
auld cow.' ' Aye,' said she, ' but I hope ye dinna 
look at them o'er keen ' — meaning, yo ken, that may- 
be I had the Evil Eye. I laughed, and told her that 
was a that ne'er belong't to me or mine. That 
minds me of an auld wife near Loch Boisdale who had 
a terrible bad name for killing kye and doing mischief 
on corn. She was gleed," and had black hair. One 
day, when the folk were in kirk, she reached o'er her 
hand to a bairn that was lying beside her, and touched 
its cheek wi' her finger. Weel, that moment the 
bairn (it was a lassie, and had red hair) began greet- 
ing, and turning its head from side to side, like folk 
in fever. It kept on sae for days. But at last auither 

* She equinted. 


woman, who saw what was wrang, recommended 
eight poultices o' kyedung (one every night) from the 
innermost kye i' the byre. They gied licr the poul- 
tices, and the lassie got weel." 

" That was as strange a remedy as the buried cat," 
observed the Wanderer ; " but I did not know such 
people possessed the power of casting the trouble on 
human beings." 

Haniish puffed his pipe, and looked quietly at the 
sky. It was some minutes before he spoke again. 

" There was a witch family," he said at last, " in 
Loch Carron, where I was born and reared. They 
lived their lane,* close to the sea. There were three 
o' them — the mither, a son, and a daughter. The 
mither had great lumps all o'er her arms, and sae had 
the daughter ; but the son was a clean-hided lad, and 
he was the cleverest. Folk said he had the power o' 
healing the sick, but only in ae way, by transferring 
the disease to him that brought the message seeking 
help. Once, I mind, a man was sent till him on 
horseback, bidding him come and heal a fisher who 
was up on the hill and like to dee. The warlock 
mounted his pony, and said to the man, ' Draw back 
a bit, and let me ride before ye.' The man, kenning 
nae better, let him pass, and followed ahint. TJiey 
had to pass through a glen, and in the middle o' the 
glen an auld wife was standing at her door. AVhcn 
she saw the messenger riding ahint the warlock, she 
screeched out to him as loud as she could cry — ' Ride, 
ride, and reach the sick lad first, or ye're a dead man,' 

* Their lane — alone. 


At that the warlock looked black as thunder, and 
<i^alloped his pony ; but the messenger being better 
mounted, o'ertook hiui fust, and got first to tlie sick 
man's bedside. In the niglit the sick man died. Ye 
see, the warlock had nae power of shifting the com- 
plaint but on hira that brought the message, and no' 
on him, if the warlock didna reach the house before 
the messenjjer." 

Here the Viking emerged with the whisky-bottle, 
and Hamish Shaw wet his lips. We were gliding 
gently along now, and the hills of Uist were still 
dimly visible. The deep roll of the sea would have 
been disagreeable, perhaps, to the uninitiated, but we 
were hardened. While the Yiking sat by, gazing 
gloomily into the darkness, the Wanderer pursued 
his chat with Shaw, or, rather, incited the latter to 
further soliloquies, 

" Do you know, Hamish," he said, slyly, " it 
seems to me very queer that Providence should suf- 
fer such pranks to be played, and should entrust 
that marvelous power to such wretched hands. 
Come, now, do you actually fancy these things have 
happened V 

But Hamish Shaw was not the man to commit him- 
self. He was a philosopher. 

" I'm of the opinion," he replied, " that it would 
be wrong to be o'er positive. Providence docs as 
queer things, whiles,"^ as either man or woman. There 
was a strange cry, like the wdiistle of a bird, heard 
every night close to the cottage before Wattie Mac- 

* At times. 


Icod's smack was lost on St. Jolin's Point, and Wattie 
and liis son drowned; then it stoppit. Whiles it 
comes like a sheep crying, whiles like the sound o' 
pipes. I heard it mysel' when my brither Angus died, 
lie had been awa' o'er the country, and his horse had 
fallen and kickit him on the navel. But before we 
heard a word about it, the wife and I were on the 
road to Angus' house, and were coming near the 
burn that parted his house from mine. It was night, 
and bright moonlight. The wife was heavy at the 
time, and suddenly she grippit me by the arm, and 
whispered, 'Wheesht ! do ye hear?' I listened, and 
at first heard nothing. 'Wheesht, again!' says 
she ; and then I heard it plain — like the low blowing 
o' the bagpipes, slowly and sadly, wi' nae tune. ' O 
Ilamish,' said the wife, ' wha can it be ?' I said nae- 
thing, but I felt my back all cold, and a sharp thread 
running through my heart. It followed us along as 
far as Angus' door, and then it went awa'. Angus 
was sitting by the fire ; they had just brought him 
hame, and he told us o' the fall and the kick. lie 
was pale, but didna think much was wrang wi' him, 
and talked quite cheerful and loud. The wife was 
Bick and frighted, and they gave her a dram ; they 
thought it was her trouble, for her time was near, 
but she was thinking o' the sign. Though we knew 
fine that Angus wouldna live, we didna dare to speak 
o' what we had heard. Going hame that nicht, we 
heard it again, and in a week he was lying in hia 

The darkness, the hushed breathing of the sea, the 
BOugh of the wind through the ngging, greatly deej)- 


ened the effect of this tale; and the Yiking listened 
intently, as if he expected every moment to hear 
a similar Bound presaging his own doom, Ilamisli 
Shaw showed no emotion, lie told his talc as mere 
raatter-of-fact, with no elocutionary effects, and kept 
his eye to windward all the time, evidently looking 
out for squalls. 

"For God's sake," cried the Yiking, "choose some 
other subject of conversation. We are in bad 
enough plight already, and don't want any more 

" What ! afraid of ghosts ?" 

"No, dash it!" returned the Yiking ; "but — but — 
as sure as I live, there is storm in yon sky !" 

The look of the sky to windward was certainly not 
improving ; it was becoming smoked over with thick 
mist. Though we were now only a few miles off the 
Uist coast, the loom of the land was scarcely visible ; 
the vapors peculiar to such coasts seemed rising and 
gradually wrapping everything In their folds. Still, as 
fa]' as we could make out from tiie stars, there was no 
carry in the sky. 

" I'll no' say," observed Hamish, taking in every- 
thing at a glance — " I'll no say but there may be wind 
ere morning ; but it will be wind off the shore, and we 
hae the hills for shelter." 

" But the squalls ! the squalls !" cried the Yiking. 

" The land is no' so high that ye need to be 
scared. Leave you the vessel to me, and I'll take her 
through it snug. But we may as weel hae the third 
reef in the mainsail, and mak' things ready in case o' 


This was soon done. The mainsail was reefed, and 
the small jib substituted for the large one ; and after 
a glance at the compass, Ilamish again sat quiet at 
the liclm 

" Earra," he said, renewing our late subject of 
talk, " is a great place for superstition, and sac is 
Uist. The folk are like weans, simple and kindly. 
There is a Ben-shee weel known at the head o' Loch 
Eynort, and anither haunts one o' the auld castles o* 
the great Macneil o' Barra. I hae heard, too, that 
whiles big snakes, wi' manes like hoi'ses, come up into 
the fresh- water lakes and lie in wait to devour the 
flesh o' man. In a fresh-water loch at the Harris 
there was a big beast like a bull, that came up ae 
day and ate half the body o' a lad when he was 
bathing. They tried to drain the loch to get at the 
beast, but there was o'er muckle water. Then they 
baited a great hook wi' the half o' a sheep, but the 
beast was o'er wise to bite. Lord, it was a droll 
fishing ! They're a curious people. But do ye no' 
think, if the seas and the lochs were drainit dry, 
there would be all manner o' strange animals that 
nae man kens the name o' ? There's a kind o' 
water-world — nae man kens what it's lilce — for the 
drown'd canna see, and if they could see, they 
couldna speak. Ay !'' he added, suddenly changing 
the current of his thoughts, " ay ! the wind's rising, 
and we're no far off the shore, for I can smell the 

By what keenness of sense Ilamish managed to 
" smell the land " we had no time just then to inquire, 
for all our wits were employed in looking after tho 


safoty of the Tern. She was bowling along under 
three-reefed mainsail and stormjib, and was getting 
just about as much as she could bear. With the rail 
under to the cockpit, the water lapping heavily 
against the cooming, and ever and anon splashing 
right over in the cockpit itself, she made her way fast 
tlirough the rising sea. In vain we strained our eyes 
to discern the shore — 

" The blinding mist came down and hid the land 
As far as eye could see !" 

All at once the foggy vapors peculiar to the country 
had steeped everything in darkness ; we could gues.-i 
from the helm where the land lay, but how near it 
was we were at a loss to tell. What with the whist- 
ling wind, the darkness, the surging sea, we felt quite 
bewildered and amazed. 

The Wanderer looked at his watch, and it was past 
midnight. Even if the fog cleared off, it would not 
be safe to take Loch Bolsdale without good light, and 
there was nothing for it but to beat about till sunrise. 
This was a prospect not at all comfortable, for we 
might even then be in the neighborhood of dangerous 
rocks, and if the wind rose any higher, we should be 
compelled to run before the wind, God knew whither. 
Meantime, it was determined to stand off a little to 
the open, in dread of coming to over-close quarters 
with the shore. 

Ilamish sat at the helm, stern and imperturbable. 
We knew by his silence that he was anxious, but he 
expressed no anxiety whatever. Ever and anon, he 
slipped down his hand on the deck to leeward, feeling 


how near the water was to the cockpit, and as there 
Beemed considerable danger of foundering in the 
heavy sea, he speedily agreed with us that it would be 
wise to close over the cockpit hatches. That done, all 
was achieved that hands could do, save holding the 
boat with the helm steady and close to the wind — a 
task which Ilamish fulfilled to perfection. . Indeed, 
we were in no slight danger from squalls, for the 
wind was off the land, and nothing saved us, when 
struck by heavy gusts, but the firmness and skill of 
the helmsman. lie had talked about smelling the 
]and, but it is certain that he seemed to smell the 
wind ; almost before a squall touched her, the Tern 
was standing up to it tight and firm, when ever so 
Blijjht a fallinoj off might have stricken us over to the 
mast, and perhaps (for the cockpit hatches were a 
Bmall protection) foundered us in the open sea. 

We will draw a veil over the sufferings of the Vi- 
king. He was a wreck by this time, too weak even 
to scream out his propliccies of doom, but lying antic- 
ipating his fate in the forecastle hammock, with the 
grog at his side and his eyes closed des])airingly 
against all the terrors of the scene. The cook was 
lying in tlie cabin, very sidk — in that happy frame of 
mind when it is a matter of indifference whether we 
float on or go to the bottom. The Wanderer, drenched 
through, clung close beside the pilot, and strained 
his eyes against wind and salt spray into the darkness. 
It would be false to say that he felt comfortable, but as 
false to say that he was frightened. Though dread- 
fully excitable by nature, he was of too sanguine a 
temperament to be overpowered by half-seen perils. 


On the whole, though the situation was precarious, 
he had by no moans made up his mind to be drowned ; 
and there was 8omethin2: so stiinulatinjx in the bravo 
conduct of the little sliip, wliich seemed to bo fight- 
ing out the battle on her own account, that at times 
he felt actually light-hearted enough to sing aloud 
a verse of his favorite " Tom Bowling." No man, 
however, could have sat yonder in the darkness, 
amid the rush of wind and wave, and failed to 
tremble at times, thinking of the power of God ; so 
that, again and again, thi'ough the Wanderer's mind, 
with a deep sea-music of their own, rolled the verses 
of the Psalm — " They that go down to the sea in 
ships, that do l)usiness in great waters ; these see the 
works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For 
he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which 
lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the 
heaven, they go down again to the depths ; their soul 
is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, 
and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' 
end. Then they cry unto the Lord in. their trouble, 
and he bringeth them out of their distresses. lie 
maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof 
are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; 
so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh 
that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and 
for his wonderful works to the children of men !" 

It was now so dark that we could see nothing on 
any side of us, save the glitter of the crests of the 
waves, and the phosphorescent glimmer of the beaten 
water behind the keel. The wind was pretty steady, 
and the squalls not too frequent. We were running 


through the darkness at considerable speed, burying 
oar bowsprit in every wave, and washing our decks as 
clean as salt water could make them. So low was the 
Tern^s rail, and so close to the sea, even on the weath- 
er side, that it was almost like being dragged through 
the water bodily with the chilly waves lapping round 
one's waist. 

Suddenly, out of the darkness ahead, shot a sharp 
glimmer of light; then there was a loud sound like 
the creaking of cordage and noise of sails ; and then, 
before we could utter a cry, a large brig dashed across 
our bows, running with a free sheet before the wind. 
Ghostly and strange she looked in the mist, driving at 
tremendous speed, and churning the sea to sparkling 
foam. With a loud oath, namish shoved the helm 
hard-a-port, and brought the head of the Ter^n up to 
the wind. We had narrowly escaped a collision. 
With fascinated eyes we watched the brig dash on 
until it was swallowed up in the darkness, and when 
it was quite gone, drew a heavy breath of relief. 

" Lord, that was a close shave !" muttered Shaw, 
drawing his cuff across his mouth, as is his manner 
when agitated. " AVha would hae thought o' meeting 
strange craft hereabouts ? We'd may-be better rig out 
the mast-head lantern, in case o' mair accidents." 

Tills was soon done, and although the lantern burnt 
blue and dim, we felt more secure. After so narrow 
an escape, what reasonable creature would have 
refused to drink his own health in the water of life? 
The grog-bottle was passed round, and never was a 
*' nip of the screech " received with more affectionate 


It was a weary work, tliat waiting in the dark- 
ness. The wind sang, the water sobbed, the sail 
moaned, until the Wanderer began to get sleepier 
and sleepier, and at last, wet as he was, sank off into 
a doze, wherein he was just half conscious of the 
boat's motion through the water, and half dreaming 
of things far away. Suddenly he was startled by a 
roar in his ear, and rubbed his eyes wildly, listening. 
It was Ilamish Shaw saying quietly : 

" It's beirinninij: to get Vmht. I see the loom o' the 

Shivering like a half- drowned rat in the cold, damp 
air of the dawn, and dashing the wet hair out of his 
weary eyes, the Wanderer stared all round him, and 
saw, when his obfuscated wits were able to concen- 
trate themselves, that it was nearly daybreak, though 
all was dark above. A dim, silvern, misty glimmer 
was on the sea, and about two miles to the westward 
the land lay black in a mist like the smoke nearest 
the funnel of a new-coaled steamer. The Yiking was 
poking his head through the cabin-hatch, and gazing 

" Can ye mak' out the shape o' these hills ? " he 
asked of the pilot. " Loch Boisdale should be here- 

Hamish shook his head. 

" We maun creep in closer to mak' certain," he re- 
plied. "It's o'er dark yet. Yon bit place yonder — 
where you see a shimmer like the gleam o' herring- 
scales — ^looks like the mouth of the loch, but we 
maun creep in cannie and get mair light," 

Althouo-h Shaw had been herrin^r-tishing on the 


coast for many jeare, he was not so familiar witli tho 
coast as might have been expected. He knew its 
general outline, but had not made close observation 
of details. "With the indifference peculiar to tho 
fishers, he had generally trusted to Providence and 
his own sagacity, without making any mental note of 
his experiences. So it was not until we had twice or 
thrice referred to the chart that he remembered that 
just south of Boisdale, about half a mile from shore, 
there was a dangerous reef called Mackenzie Kock, 
and that above this rock there was a red buoy, which, 
if descried in the dim light, would be a certain index 
to the whereabouts of the mouth of the loch. 

" Tam Saunders put the Wild Duck on that rock 
when I was up here in the Gannet^^ said Hamish ; 
"but she was as strong as iron — different frae this 
wee bit shell o' a thing — and they keepit her fixit 
there till the flood, and then floated her off wi' scarce 
a scratch. We'll just put her about, and creep in 
shore on the other tack." 

Though the day was slowly breaking, it was still 
very misty, and a thin, cold " smurr " was beginning 
to dreep down in the sea. The wind was still sharp 
and strong, the sea high, and the squalls dangerous; 
but we knew now that the worst of our troubles must 
be over. As we approached closer to the shore, we 
noticed one great bluff, or headland, from which tlic 
land receded on either side, leaving it darkly promi- 
nent ; and a reference to the chart soon convinced us 
that this headland was no other than the Khu Ilordag, 
which lies a few miles to the south of Loch Boisdale. 
So we put about again, and slipped up along the land, 


lying very close to the wind. It was soon clear that 
the dawn, although it had fully broken, was not going 
to favor us with a brilliant exhibition, nor to dispel 
the dangerous vapors in which the shore was shroud- 
ed. The whole shape of the land was distorted. One 
could merely conjecture where solid earth ended and 
inist began — all was confusion. No sun came out — 
only the duil glimmer through the miserable " smurr " 
betokened that it was day. 

Suddenly, with » shriek of joy, the YiKing discov- 
ered tlie buoy, and pointed it out through the rain. 
Yes, there it was, a red spot in a circle of white foam, 
about a quarter of a mile on the weather-quarter. 
With thia assistance, it was decided that the spot 
which Shaw had compared to the " gleam of herring- 
scales " was indeed the mouth of the loch. Never did 
voyagers hail the sight of haven with greater joy I 

It was a run of nearly a mile up to the anchorage, 
and the passage was by no means a safe one ; bu' 
Hamish, once in the loch, knew every stone and 
shallow perfectly. When we cast anchor, the thin 
" smurr " had changed into a heavy rain, and all the 
scene around was black and wild. But what cared 
we ? The iire was lighted in the forecastle, Ilamish 
put on the kettle, and the kettle began to sing. Then, 
after donning dry clothes, we sat do-svn as merry as 
crickets. The Wanderer dozed smilingly in a corner. 
The Viking swore roundly that it had been the "j oi- 
liest night " he had ever spent, and that such experi- 
ences made him in love with sailing. Ilamish Shaw, 
to whom all the glory of the night belonged, first lit 
his black cutty pipe, and rested his head against the 



side of the forecastle, and then, in an instant, dropped 
off, heavy as a log, worn out with fatigue, and still 
gripping the cutty firmly between his teeth as he 




Loch Boisdale — Tho Tern at Anchor — The Inn and the Population — Baiu 
— Boisdalo in tho Herring-Season— Fishing-boats and Camps — A Might 
in a West-Country Smack — Herring-gutters — Habits of East-Country 

The Tent's first anchorage in the Outer Hebrides 
was at Loch Boisdale, and it was there that tlie 
dreary landscape of the Long Island began to exer- 
cise its deep fascination over the Wanderer's mind. 
We lay at the usual place, close to the pier and inn, 
in the full enjoyment of the ancient and fish-like 
smell wafted to us from the curing-places ashore. 
The herring-fishers had nearly all departed, save one 
or two native crews, who were still laboring leisure- 
ly ; but they had left their debris everywhere — skele- 
tons of huts, piles of peat, fish-bones, scraps of rot- 
ten nets, even broken pots and dishes. One or two 
huts, some entirely of wood, stood empty, awaiting 
the return of their owners in the following spring. 
The whole place was deserted — ^its harvest-time was 
over. When we rowed ashore in the punt, the popu- 
lation — consisting of two old men and some dirty lit- 
tle boys — received us in grim amazement and silence,. 
until the advent of the inn-keeper, who, repressing all 
outward symptoms of wonder, bade us a sly welcomo. 


and showed us the way to li is establishment. The ob- 
vious impression was that we were insane ; the tiny 
craft in wliich we had come over, our wild and hag- 
gard appearance, and, above all, the fact that we had 
actually come to Loch Boisdale for pleasure (a fact un- 
precedented in the mind of the oldest inhabitant), all 
contributed to strengthen this belief. The landlord 
was free and inquisitive, humoring us cunningly, as 
keepers do mad people, receiving all our statements 
calmly and without contradiction, answering all our 
questions in the easy manner found useful in dealing 
with idiots and infants, never thinking it worth while 
to correct us when we were wrong. As he sat chat- 
ting with us over a glass of whisky, in a mildewy room 
of the inn, tlie inhabitants dropped in one by one; 
first, the two old men, then a little boy, then a tipsy 
fisherman, and so on, till the room was full of specta- 
tors, all with their mouths wide open, and all, without 
sign of ordering or drinking anything, staring at 
the strangers. This volley of eyes became at last 
so unbearable that it was thought advisable to di- 
rect it elsewhere by ordering " glasses round ; " an 
act of generosity which, however grateful to the 
feelings, was received without enthusiasm, though 
the mouths and eyes opened still wider in amaze. 
The advent of the whisky, however, acted like 
a charm, and the company burst into a torrent of 

The result of a long conversation with the popu- 
lace — which in number and appearance bore about 
the same relation to a respectable community that a 
stage "mob" in "Julius Csesar " would bear to the 


real article — was not particularly edifying. These 
gentlemen were cynical on the merits of Loch Bois- 
(lale ; its principal beauties, in their opinion, be- 
ing ague, starvation, and weariness. For any per- 
son to remain there, ever so short a time, who 
could by any possibility get out of it, was a thing 
not to be credited by common sense. The inn-keeper, 
however, tried to convey to us his comprehension 
that we had come there, not for pleasure, but " on a 
discovering manner," by which mystical Celticism he 
meant to say that we were visitors come to make 
inquiries, possibly with a view to commerce or sta- 
tistics. He shook his head over both country and 
people, and seemed to think our expedition was 
a waste of time. 

For three days after that, it rained as it can rain 
only in the Long Island ; and when at last, tired out 
of patience, we rushed ashore, our friend the innkeep- 
er received us with a deprecating smile. "With keen 
sarcasm, we demanded if it were always " that sort of 
weather " in Loch Boisdale ; but he replied quite 
calmly, "Ay, much aboot." But when we sat down 
over usquebaugh, and the rain, still plashing darkly 

" Witli its twofold sound. 
The clash hard by, and the murmur all round !" 

showed that the weather was little likely to abate that 
day, the landlord seemed to think his credit at stake, 
and that even Loch Boisdale was appearing at a dis- 
advantage. To console him, we told him that story 
of the innkeeper at Arrochar which poor Hugh Mac- 
donald used to retail with such unction over the 


toddy. An English traveler stayed for some days at 
Arrochar, and there had been nothing but rain from 
morn to night. The landlord tried to keep up his 
guest's spirits by repeated prophecies that the weather 
was " about to break up ;"" but at last, on the fifth 
day, the stranger could endure it no longer. " I say, 
landlord, have you ever — now, on your honor — have 
you ever any other sort of weather in this confounded 
place?" The landlord replied humbly, yet bitterly, 
*' Speak nae mair, sir, speak nae mair. I'm just per- 
fectly ashamed of the way in which our weather's be- 
having !" But the Loch Boisdale landlord seemed to 
think the tale too serious for laughter. 

As we have noted above, the herring harvest was 
over. Twice in the year there is good fishing — in the 
spring and in the autumn ; but the autumn fishing is 
left quite in the hands of a few native boats. The 
moment the spring-fishing ends, Loch Boisdale sub- 
sides into torpor. All is desolate and still ; only the 
fishy smell remains, to remind the yawning native of 
the glory that is departed. 

A busy sight, indeed, is Loch Boisdale or Storno- 
way in the herring season. Smacks, open boats, skiffs, 
wherries, make the narrow waters shady ; not a creek, 
however small, but holds some boat in shelter. A 
fleet, indeed! — the Lochleven boat from the east coast, 
with the three masts and the three huge lugsails ; the 
Newhaven boat, with its two lugsails ; the Isle of 
Man "jigger;" the beautiful Guernsey runner, hand- 
some as a racing yacht, and powerful as a revenue 
cutter; besides all the numberless fry of less notice- 
able vessels, from the fat west-country smack, with its 


comfortable fittinj:^s, down to the miserable Arraii 
wherry.^ Swarms of seagulls float everywhere, and 
the loch is so oily with the fishy deposit that it 
requires a strong wind to ruffle its surface. Every- 
where on the shore and hillsides, and on the number- 
less islands, rises the smoke of camps. Busy swarms 
surround the curing-houses and the inn, while 
the beach is strewn with fishermen lying at length, 
and dreaming till work-time. In the afternoon, the " 
fleet slowly disappear, melting away out into the 
ocean, not to re-emerge till long after the gray of the 
next dawn. 

Did you ever go out for a night with the herring- 
fishers ? If you can endure cold and wet, you would en- 
joy the thing hugely, especially if you have a boating 
mind. Imagine yourself on board a west-country 
Bmack, running from Boisdale Harbor with the rest 
of the fleet. It is afternoon, and there is a nice, fresh 
breeze from the southwest. You crouch in the stern, 
by the side of the helmsman, and survey all around 
you with the interest of a novice. Six splendid fel- 
lows, in various picturesque attitudes, lounge about 
the great, broad, open hold, and another is down 

* The Arran wherry, now nearly extinct, is a wretched-looking^ 
thing, without a bowsprit, but with two strong masts. Across t\\(~. 
foremast is a bulkhead, and there is a small locker for blankets 
and bread. In the open space between bulkhead and locker birch 
tops are thickly strewn for a bed, and for covering there is a huge 
woolen waterproof blanket ready to be stretched out on spars. 
Close to the mast lies a huge stone, and thereon a stove. The 
cable is of heather rope, the anchor wooden, and the stock a stone. 
Rude and ill-found as these boats are, they face weather before 
which any ordinary yachtsman would quail. 


in the forecastle boiling coffee. If you were not there, 
half of these would be taking their sleep down below. 
It seems a lazy business, so far ; but wait ! By sun- 
set the smack has run fifteen miles up the coast, and 
is going seven or eight miles east of Rhu Ilunish light- 
house ; many of the fleet still keep her company, 
steering thick as shadows in the twilight. How the 
gulls gather yonder ! The dull plash ahead of the 
boat was caused by the plunge of a solan goose. That 
the herrings are hereabout, and in no small numbers, 
you might be sure, even without that bright, phos- 
phorescent light which travels in patches on the water 
to leeward. !N^ow is the time to see the lounging 
crew dart into sudden activity. The boat's head is 
brought up to the wind, and the sails are lowered in 
an instant.* One man grips the helm, another seizes 
the back rope of the net, a third the " skunk " or 
body, a fouith is placed to see the buoys clear and 
heave them out, the rest attend forward, keeping a 
sharp look-out for other nets, ready, in case the boat 
should run too fast, to steady her by dropping the 
anchor a few fathoms into the sea. When all the nets 
are out, the boat is brought bow on to the net, the 
"swing" (as they call the rope attached to the net) 
secured to the smack's " bits," and all hands then 
lower the mast as quickly as possible. The mast 
lowered, secured, and made all clear for hoisting at a 
moment's notice, and the candle lantern set U]> in the 

* There is fashion everywhere. An east country boat always 
(^li(X)tH across the wind, of course carrying some sail ; while a 
west-country boat shoots before the wind, with bare poles. 

THE FIHIIEIIH or Till-; LONG 18LAND. "'2.'> 

iron Htund made for the purpose of h(ddiu^ it, llie 
crew leave one look-out on deck, with instructions to 
call them up at a fixed hour, and turn in helow for a 
nap in their clothen ; unless it so happens that your 
brilliant conversation, seasoned with a few bottles 
of whisky, should tempt them to steal a few more 
hours from the summer night. Day breaks, and every 
man is on deck. All hands are busy at work, taking 
the net in over the bow, two supporting the body, the 
rest hauling the back rope, save one who draws the 
net into the hold, and another who arranges it from 
Bide to side in the hold to keep the vessel even. 
Tweet ! tweet ! — that thin, cheeping sound, resem- 
bling the razor-like call of the bat, is made by dying 
herrings at the bottom of the boat. The sea to lee- 
ward, the smack's hold, the hands and arms of the 
men, are gleaming like silver. As many of the iish 
as possible are shaken loose during the process of 
hauling in, but the rest arc left in the net until the 
smack gets on shore. Three or four hours pass away in 
this wet and tiresome work. At last, however, the 
nets are all drawn in, the mast is hoisted, the sail set, 
and while the cook (there being always one man hav- 
ing this branch of work in his department) plunges 
below to prepare breakfast, the boat makes for Loch 
Boisdale. Everywhere on the water, see the fishing- 
boats making for the same bourne, blessing their luck 
or cursing their misfortune, just as the event of the 
night may have been. All sail is set, if possible, and 
it is a wild race to the market. Even when the 
anchorage is reached, the work is not quite finished ; 



for the fish have to be measured out in "cran" baskets,* 
and delivered at the curing-station. By the time that 
the crew have got their morning dram, have arranged 
the nets snuglj in the stern, and have had some her- 
rings for dinner, it is time to be off again to the har- 
vest-field. Half the crew turn in for sleep, while the 
other half hoist sail and conduct the vessel out to sea. 

Huge, indeed, are the swarms that inhabit Boisdale, 
afloat or ashore, during the harvest ; but, partly be- 
cause each man has his business on hand, and partly 
because there is plenty of sea-room, there are few 
breaches of the peace. On Sunday night, the public- 
house is crowded, and now and then the dull roar 
ceases for a moment, as some obstreperous member is 
shut out summarily into the dark. Besides the reg- 
ular fishermen and people employed at the curing sta- 
tion, there are the herring-gutters — women of all ages, 
many of whom follow simply the fortunes of the 
fishers from place to place. Their business is to gut 
and salt the fish, which they do with wonderful dex- 
terity and skill. 

Hideous, indeed, looks a group of these women, 
defiled from head to foot with herring garbage, and 
laughing and talking volubly, while gulls innumerable 
float above them, and fill the air with their discordant 
screams. But look at them when their work is over, 
and they are changed indeed. Always cleanly, and 
generally smartly, dressed, they i)arade the roads and 
wharf. Numbers of them are old and ill-favored, 

* A cran holds rather more than a herring-barrel, and the aver 
age value of a cran-meaaure of herrings is about one pound ster- 


but you will sec among them many a blooming 
cheek and beautiful eye. Their occupation is a profit- 
able one, especially if they be skillful ; for they are 
paid according to the amount of work they do. 

It is the custom of most of the east-country fishers 
to bring over their own women — one to every boat, 
sleeping among the men, and generally related to one 
or more of the crew. We have met many of these 
girls, some of them very pretty, and could vouch for 
their perfect purity. Besides their value as cooks, 
they can gut herrings and mend nets ; but their chief 
recommendation in the eyes of the canny fishermen is 
that they are kith and kin, while the natives are 
Btrangers " no' to be trusted." The east-country fish- 
erman, on his arrival, invariably encamps on shore, 
and the girl or woman " keeps the house " for the 
whole crew. 

For the fisherman of the east coast likes to be com- 
fortable. He is at once the most daring and the most 
careful. He will face such dangers on the sea as 
would appall most men, while at the same time he is 
as cautious as a woman in providing against cold and 
ague. How he manages to move in his clothes is a 
matter for marvel, for he is packed like a j)atient after 
the cold-water process. Only try to clothe yourself in 
all the following articles of attire : pair of stockings, 
pair of stockings over them half up the leg, to be cov- 
ered by the long fishing-boots ; on the trunk, a thick 
flannel, covered with an oilskin-vest; on the top of 
these, an oilskin-coat ; next, a mighty muffler to -wind 
round the neck, and bury the chin and mouth ; and 
last of all, the sou'wester ! This is the usual costume 


of an east-country iishennan, and he not only breathes 
and lives in it, but manages his boat, on the whole, 
better than any of his rivals on the water. He drags 
himself along on land awkwardly enough ; and on 
board, instead of rising to walk, he rolls, as it were, 
from one part of the boat to the other. He is alto- 
gether a more calculating dog than the west-country 
man, more eager for gain, colder and more reticent in 
all his dealings with human kind. 

On our arrival at Loch Boisdale in the Tem^ there 
was nothing to redeem the cheerless gloom of the 
place. We lingered only a few days, during which it 
blew a violent gale; and then, slipping out of the har- 
bor with the first light, began to work northward 
along the coast. 




First Glimpee — The Uists and Benbecula — Their Miserable Asixjcts — Ham- 
ish Shaw— Solomnity of tho People— Brighter Glimpses- The Western 
Coast of the Island— "Winter-Storm— Tho Sound of Harris— Tho Norwe- 
gian Skipper— Tho Fjords— Kelp-burners-View from Kenneth Hill, 
Loch Boisdale — A Sunset — The Lagoons — Charaeteristics of tho Pecv 
pie — Civilized and Uncivilized — Miserable Dwellings — Comfortable At- 
tire — Their Superstitions and Deep Spiritual Life. 

A DREARY sky, a dreary fall of rain. Long, low 
flats, covered with tlieir own damp breath, through 
which the miserable cattle loomed like shadows. 
Everywhere lakes and pools, as thickly sown amid the 
land as islands amid the Pacific waters. Huts, wretch- 
ed and chilly, scarcely distinguishable from the rock- 
strewn marshes surrounding them. To the east, the 
Minch, rolling dismal waters toward the far-off heads 
of Skye ; to the west, the ocean, foaming at the lips, 
and stretchino; barren and desolate into the rain- 
charged clouds. 

Such was the first view of Ultima Thule, and such, 
indeed, are the Outer Hebrides during two or three 
days out of the seven. Theirs is the land of Utgard- 
Loke, a lonely outer region, not dear to the gods. 
There are mountains, but they do not abound, and are 


unadorned with the softer colors which beautify the 
inner and more southerly isles. There are no trees, 
and few flowers. Two-thirds of the herbage lacks the 
exquisite softness of the true pasture. The peat-bog 
supplies the place of the meadow, the gi'ay boulders 
strew the hills in lieu of red heather. The land is 
torn up everywhere into rocky fjords and desolate la- 
goons. Where the sea does not reach in an arm, the 
fresh water comes up and deepens in countless lakes 
and pools. There are few song-birds, even the thrush 
being rare ; but the wild-goose screams overhead, and 
the ice-duck haunts the gloaming with its terribly hu- 
man " Calloo ! calloo ! " 

The islands of Uist, with Benbecula between, ex- 
tend from the Sound of Harris as far south as Barra, 
and appear to have originally formed one unbroken 
chain ; and still, indeed, at low ebbs, a person might 
almost walk dryshod from Loch Boisdale to Loch 
Maddy. On the eastern side, and here and there in 
the interior, there are high hills, such as Ilecla and 
Ben Eval ; and everywhere on the eastern coast reach 
long arms of tlie sea, winding far into the land, and 
sometimes, as in the case of Loch Eport, reaching to 
the very fringe of the Western Ocean. The land is, 
for the most part, low and unfertile, but there are a 
few breezy uplands and fine moors. All along the 
western side of the islands stretches a blank coast-line, 
unbroken by loch or haven, however small ; and above 
it rises a broad tract of hillocks, composed of snow- 
white sand and powdered sea-shells, and covered by 
dry green pasture. Washed and winnowed out of 
the deep bed of the ocean, driven in and piled up by 


the great waters, the sands and shells gather year 
after year, and, mixing with the moister soil of tlie in- 
terior, yield an arable and fertile soil. 

To the mind of Ilamish Shaw, who has been here 
many a year herring-fishing, these features of the land 
are quite without interest or excuse. " It's a poor, 
miserable country," he avers ; " little use to man ! " 
And this, by the way, is the standard by which Shaw 
measures all the things of this world — their greater or 
less utility to the human. lie has a sneer for every 
hill, however high, that will not graze sheep. A sea- 
gull or a hawk he would destroy pitilessly, because it 
cannot be converted into food. He is angry with the 
most picturesque fjords, until it can be shown that 
the herring visit them, or that the hill-burns that flow 
into them afford good trout. All this is the more re- 
markable in a man so thoroughly Celtic, so strangely 
spiritual in his reasonings, so pure with the purity of 
the race. There is a fresh life grafted on his true na- 
ture. Inoculated early with the love for commerce* 
he most admires cultivated land-scenery of any kind 
but that original nature which delights in the wild 
and picturesque is still unconsciously nourished by the 
ever various sea whereon he earns his bread. 

Hamish Shaw's charge against the Long Island is 
substantial enough ; the country is poor, and neither 
fat nor fertile. The harvest is very early and very 
poor. There is an excellent shield against cold, in the 
shape of beds of excellent peat, sometimes twenty feet 
in depth, and tliere is a certain provision against fam- 
ine in the innumerable shell-fish which cover the num- 
berless shores. The tormentil, properly pounded and 


prepared, fnrnislies a iirst-rate tan for cow or horse 
leather, of which tlie people make shoes. The land is, 
for the most part, little better than waste land, but 
there is good pasturage for sheep. 

The people, on the first view, seem slow and listless, 
overshadowed, too, with the strange solemnity of 
the race. There is no smile on their faces. Young 
and old drag their limbs, not as a Lowlander drags 
his limbs, but lissomly, with a swift, serpentine mo- 
tion. The men are strong and powerful, with deep- 
set eyes and languid lips, and they never excite them- 
selves over their labor. The women are weak and 
plain, full of a calm, domestic trouble, and they work 
harder than their lords. " A poor, half-hearted peo- 
ple ! " says the pilot ; " why don't they till the land 
and fish the seas ? " 

Here, again, the pilot has his reasons. The people 
are half-hearted — say, an indolent people. They do 
no justice to their scraps of land, which, poor as they 
be, are still capable of great improvement ; but their 
excuse is that they derive little substantial benefit 
from improvements made where there is only yearly 
tenure. They hunger often, even when the fjords op- 
posite their own door are swarming with cod and 
ling; but it is to be taken into consideration that only 
a few of them live on the seashore or possess boats. 
They let the ardent east-«ountry fishermen carry oif 
the finest hauls of herring. Their work stops when 
their mouths are filled, and yet they are ill-con- 
tent to be poor. 

All this, and more than this, is truth, and sad 
tiuth. Ilamish has a strong bill against both coun- 


try and ])eopl(3. But there is another and finer 
Bide to tiic truth. The watery wastes of IJist 
gather powerfully on the imagination, and the curi- 
ous race that inhabit them grow upon the heart. 

At the first view, as we have said, all is dreary 
— sky, land, water; but, after a little time, after 
the mind has got the proper foreground for these 
new prospects, the feeling changes from one of to- 
tal depression into a sense of peculiar magic. In- 
stead of dull, flat pools, the lagoons assume their 
gloiy of many-colored weeds and innumerable water- 
lilies; out of the dreary peat-bog rise delicate va- 
pors that float in fantastic shapes up the hill-side ; 
the sun peeps out, and the mossy hut sends its 
blue smoke into the clear, still air; all changes, 
and every nook of the novel prospect has a beauty 
of its own. 

His must be a strange soul who, wandering over 
these hillocks, and gazing westward and seaward 
in calm weather, is not greatly awed and moved. 
There is no pretense of effect, no tremendousness, 
no obtrusive sign of power. The sea is glassy 
smooth, the long swell does not break at all, until, 
reaching the smooth sand, it fades softly, with deep, 
monotonous moan. Here and there, sometimes close 
to land, sometimes far out seaward, a horrid reef 
slips its black back through the liquid blue, or a sin- 
gle rock emerges, tooth-like, thinly edged with foam. 
Southward loom the desolate heights of Barra, witli 
crags and rocks beneath, and although there is no 
wind, the ocean breaks there with one broad and 
friglitful flash of white. The sea-sound in the air is 


faint and solemn ; it does not cease at all. But what 
deepens most the strangeness of the scene, and weighs 
most sadly on the mind, is the pale, sick color of the 
sands. Even on the green heights, the wind and rain 
have washed out great hollows, wherein the powdered 
shells are drifted like snow. You are solemnized as 
if you were walking on the great bed of the ocean, 
with the serene depths darkening above you. You are 
ages back in time, alone with the great forces antece- 
dent to man ; but humanity comes ])ack upon you 
creepingly, as you think of wanderers out upon that 
endless waste, and search the dim sea-line in vain for a 

Calm like this is even more powerful than the 
storm. Under that stillnesB you are afraid of some- 
thing — nature, death, immortality, God. But at the 
rising of the winds rises the savage within you : the 
blood flows, the heart throbs, the eyes are pinched close, 
the mouth shut tio:ht. You can resist now as mortal 
things resist. Lifted up into the whirl of things, life 
is all ; the stillness — nature, death, God — is naught. 

Terrific, nevertheless, is the scene on these coasts 
when the stonn-wind rises, 

" Blowing the trumpet of Euroclydon." 

Westward, above the dark sea-line, rise the purple- 
black clouds, driving with a tremendous scurry east- 
ward, while fresh vapors rise swiftly to fill up the 
rainy gaps they leave behind them. As if at one 
word of command, the watei-s rise and roar, their white 
crests, towering heavenward, glimmering against tlie 
driving mist. Lightning, flashing out of the sky, 


shows the lonij line of lire.akei'S on the flat Band, tlic 
reefs beyond, the foamy tumult around the rocks 
southward. Thunder crashes afar, and the earth re- 
verberates. So mighty is the wind at times that no 
man can stand erect before it; houses are thrown 
down, boats lifted up and driven about like faggots. 
The cormorants, ranged in rows along their solitary 
cliffs, eye the wild waters in silence, starving for lack 
of fish, and even the nimble seagull beats about, 
screaming, unable to make way against the storm. 

These are the winter gales — the terror alike of 
Imsbandmen and fishers. The west-wind begins to 
blow in October, and gradually increases in strength, 
till all the terrors of the tempest are achieved. 
Hail-storms, rain-storms, snow-storms alternate, with 
the terriffc wind trumpeting between ; though the 
salt sea-breath is so potent, even in severe seasons, that 
the lasroons seldom freeze and the snow will not lie. 
The wild, wandering birds — the hooper, the bean- 
goose, the gray-lag, all the tribes of ducks — gather to- 
gether on the marshes, sure of food here, though the 
rest of the north be frozen. The great Arctic seal sits 
on ITaskier and sails through the Sound of Harris. 
xVbove the wildest winds are heard the screams of 

Go, in December, to the Sound of Harris and on 
some stormy day gaze on the wild scene around you ; 
the whirling watei's, sown everywhere with isles and 
rocks — ^liere the tide foaming round and round in an 
eddy powerful enough to drag along the largest ship — 
there a huge patch of seaweed staining the waves, and 
betraying the lurking reef below. In the distance 


loom tlie hills of IlarriB, blue-white with snow, and 
hidden ever and anon in flying mist. Watch the ter- 
rors of the great sound — the countless reefs and rocks, 
the eddies, the furious, wind-swept waters ; and pray 
for the strange seaman whose fate it may be to drive 
helpless thither. Better the great ocean, in all its ter- 
ror and might. Tet, through that fatal gap, barks, 
though unpiloted, have more than once driven safely. 
Into Loch Maddy, while we were lying there, dashed 
a water-logged vessel, laden with wood, from Norway, 
('aught by tempests oif the Butt of Lewis, she had run 
down the western coast of the Outer Hebrides, and was 
in dire distress, when, as a last resource, it was deter- 
mined to take the Sound. No man on board knew 
the place, and it was impossible to send on shore for a 
pilot. On they di*ove, the skipper working with his 
men, the lead-line constantly going, the watches at 
bow and at masthead singing out whenever any dan- 
gerous spot loomed in view. All along the coast gath- 
ered the island people, expecting every moment to see 
the vessel dashed to pieces ; and to the skipper's fren- 
zied eye they were wreckers watching for their prey. 
For a miracle, the vessel went safely through, w^ithout 
BO much as a scratch. The skipper, with bleeding 
hands and tearful eyes, brought his ship into Maddy. 
All his stores were gone, save a few barrels of gin, 
and tliese he contrived to exchange for common nec- 
essaries. Though it was still wild weather, and though 
his vessel was quite unseaworthy, he was bent on 
pushing forward to Liverpool. Off he went, and after 
a day's absence returned again, wild and anxious. He 
had beaten as far as Barra Head, and being checked 


there bv ;i gale from tho southwest, had been com- 
])elled to return as he had come. Again he drove 
forth, and disappeared ; and again he reappeared, 
wikler than ever, but as indomitable. The wind had 
once more checked him off Barra, and hurled him 
back to Loch INladdv. lie started a third time, and 
did not return. It is to be hoped that he reached his 
destination in safety, and that when he next goes 
afloat, it will be in a better vessel. 

To the mind of a seaman, such coasts as that of 
the Long Island can scarcely look attractive or kindly ; 
for his quick eye perceives all the danger, all the 
ghastly plotting against his life. Yet in the summer- 
time the broad and sandy western tracts are very 
beautiful in their luxuriant vegetation, covered with 
daisies, buttercups, and the lesser orchids, brightly 
intermingled with the flowers of the white clover. 
They are quite pastoral and peaceful, despite their 
proximity to the great waters. 

Indeed, the place is full of attractions, directly the 
vulgar feeling is abandoned, and the mind, instead of 
waiting to be galvanized by some powerful effect, 
quietly resigns itself to the spirit of the scene. Sight- 
seeing is like dram-drinking, and the sight-seer, like 
the dram-drinker, is not particular about the quality, 
so lonoj as the dose of stimulant is strong and stiff. 

The typical tourist, who goes into ecstasies over tho 
Trossachs, and crawls wondering under the basaltic 
columns of Stafla, would not, perhaps, be particularly 
stimulated at first by a pull up one of the numberless 
fjords which eat their winding way into the eastern 
coasts of the Outer Hebrides. The far-off hills around 


8kiport and Maddy are not tall enougli for such a 
modern, and tlie sea is dull, not being sensational, but 
old-fashioned. We, on the other hand, who find it 
unnecessary to rush far for wonders, and who are apt 
to be blind to nature's more obtrusive beauties, have 
a greater liking for these quaint old fjords than for 
the showy Trossachs or the splendid Glencoe. To 
float through them alone, in a small boat, on a quiet 
smnmer gloaming, is marvellously strange and eerie ; 
for they are endless, arm growing out of arm just as 
tlie bourne seems reached ; winding and interwinding, 
sometimes only a few feet in depth, at others broad 
and deep — and at every point of vantage there is 
something new to look upon. Some idea of the 
windings of the tides may be gained from the state- 
ment that Loch Maddy in North Uist, although 
covering only ten square miles, possesses a line of 
coast which, measuring all the various islands, creeks, 
and bays, has been calculated to ramify over three 
Imndred miles. For picturesque sea depths, swarm- 
ing with rare aquatic plants, and for variety of strange 
sea-birds, these fjords are unmatched in Britain ; and 
they are characterized by wonderful effects of sun and 
mist, rainbow apparitions, fluent lights and shadows. 
Pleasant it is, in still weather, to lean over the boat's 
side and watch the crystal water-world in some 
quiet nook, vari-colored with rocks, weeds, and 
floating tangle, and haunted by strange images of 
life. You are back in the great crustacean era, when 
man was not. Innumerable shell-fish, many of rare 
beauty, surround you ; wondrous monsters, magnified 
by the water, stare at you with their mysterious eyes. 


till lIumaiHty fodes out of sight. When you niiso 
your head, you arc dazzled, and ahnost tremble at the 
new sense of life. 

Ever and anon, in the course of these aquatic 
rambles, you meet a group of kelp-burners gathered 
on a headland or promontory ; and a capital study 
it would make for an artist with some little Rem- 
brandtish mastery over the shadows. Clouding the 
background of cold, blue sky, the thick smoke rises 
from their black fire, and the men move hither and 
thither, in and out of the vapor, raking the embers 
together, piling the dry seaweed by armsful on to the 
sullen flames. As they flit to and fro, their wild 
Gaelic cries seem foreign and unearthly, and their 
unkempt hair and ragged garments loom strangely 
through the foul air. On the hill slope above them, 
where a rude road curves to the shore, a line of carts, 
each horse guided by a woman, comes creaking down 
to the wood-strewn beach to gather tangle for drying. 
The women, with their coarse serge jtetticoats kilted 
high and colored handkerchiefs tied over their heads, 
stride like men at the horses' heads, and shriek the 
beasts forward. 

Standing on Kenneth Hill, a rocky elevation on the 
north side of Loch Boisdale, and looking westward 
on a summer day, one has a fine glimpse of Boisdale 
and its lagoons, stretching right over to the edge of 
the Western Ocean, five miles distant. The inn and 
harbor, with the fishing-boats therein, make a fine 
foreground, and thence the numerous ocean fjords, 
branching this way and that like the stems of sea- 
weeds, stretch g-listenino; westward into the land. A 


little inland, a number of liuts cluster, like beavere' 
houses, on the site of a white hisihwaj ; and along 
the highway peasant men and women, mounted or 
afoot, come wandering down to the port. Far as the 
eye can see the land is quite flat and low, scarcely 
a hillock breaking the dead level until the rise of a 
row of low sandhills on the very edge of the distant 
sea. The number of fjords and lagoons, large and 
small, is almost inconceivable ; there is water every- 
where, still and stagnant to the eye, and so constant 
is its presence that the mind can scarcely banish 
the fancy that this land is some floating, half-sub 
stantial mass, torn up in all places to show the sea 
below. The higliway meanders through the marshes 
until it is quite lost on the other side of the island, 
where all grows greener and brighter, the signs of 
cultivation more noticeable, the human habitations 
more numerous. Far away, on the long black line 
of the marshes, peeps a spire, and the white church 
gleams below, with school-house and hovels clustering 
at its feet. 

A prospect neither magnificent nor beautiful, yet 
surely full of fascination ; its loneliness, its piteous 
human touches, its very dreariness, win without 
wooing the soul. And if more be wanted, wait for 
the rain — some thin, cold " smurr" from the south, 
which will clothe the scene with gray mist, shut out 
the distant sea, and brooding, over the desolate la- 
goons, draw from them pale and beautiful rainbows, 
which come and go, dissolve and grow, swift as the 
colors in a kaleidoscope, touching the dreariest 
snatches of water and waste with all the wonders of 


the prism. Or if you be a fair-weather voyager, 
afraid of wetting your skin, wait for the sunset. It 
will not be such a sunset as you have been accustomed 
to on English uplands or among high mountains, but 
something suUener, stranger, and more sad. From a 
long, deep bar of cloud, on the far-off ocean horizon, 
the sun will gleam round and red, hanging as if 
moveless, scarcely tinting the deep, watery shadow of 
the sea, but turning every lagoon to blood. There 
will be a stillness as if Nature held her breath. You 
will have no sense of pleasure or wonder — only hushed 
expectation, as if something were going to happen ; 
but if you are a saga-reader, you will remember the 
death of Balder, and mutter the rune. Such sunsets, 
alike yet ever different, we saw, and they are not to 
be forgotten. Then most deeply did the soul feel 
itself in the true land of the glamour, shut out wholly 
from the fantasies of mere fairyland or the grandeurs 
of mere spectacle. The clouds may shape them- 
selves into the lurid outlines of the old gods, crying 

Suinken i Gruua er 
Midgards stad ! 

the mist on the margins of the pools may become the 

gigantic mtch-wife, spinning out lives on her bloody 

distaff, and croaking a prophecy ; but gentler things 

may not intrude, and the happy sense of healthy life 

dies utterly away. 

Pleasant it is, after such an hour, to wander across 

the bogs and mai-^hes, and come down on the margin 

of a little lake, while the homeward passing cattle low 

in the gloaming. You are now in fairyland. With 


young buds yellow, and flowers as M'hite as snow, 
floating freely among the floating leaves, the water- 
lilies gather, and catch the dusky silver of the moon. 
The little dab-chick cries, and you see her sailing, a 
black speck, close to shore, and splashing the pool 
to silver where slie dives. The sky clears, and the 
still spaces between the lilies glisten with stars whose 
broken rays shimmer like hoarfrost and touch with 
crystal the edges of leaves and flowers. You are a 
child at once, and think of Oberon. 

Neither more nor less than we have described them 
are the Outer Hebrides ; a few mountains, endless 
stretches of peat bogs and small lagoons, a long tract 
of shell-sand hillocks, all environed, eaten into, and 
perpetually shapened afresh by the never resting sea — 

" Hebrid itslcs. 
Set far amid the melancholy main." 

Like all such children of the sea, thev flit from mood 
to mood, sometimes terrible, sometimes miserable, 
peaceful occasionally, but never highly gay. Half the 
year round they are misted over by the moist oceanic 
rains — in winter the sea strews them anew with sea- 
weeds, shells, and drift timber — and for a few davs in 
the year they bask in a glassy sea and behold the 
midsummer sun. 

The rafters of most of the dwellings on the seashore 
are composed of the great logs of drift-wood which 
find their way over the ocean to the western coasts — 
mighty trees, with stumps of roots and branches still 
remaining, wafted from the western continents. Many 
of these trunks are covered with the foliage of sea- 


weed, and adorned with barnacles — wliicli, it is Btill 
popularly believed, are geese in the embryo. Others 
arc the masts and yards of ships. 

As has before been noted, the people of these isles 
are very poor. Their chief regular occupation, not a 
very profitable one now, is the manufacture of kelp ; 
but they work during a portion of tiie year at the cod, 
ling and herring fisheries. At certain seasons of the 
year, they reap an excellent harvest out of the cuddies, 
or young lithe, which appear on the coast in numbers 
nearly as great as the herring fry. They are taken by 
thousands in long bag nets tied to the end of a long 
pole. In hard times the people subsist almost entirely 
on shell-fish, such as cockles and mussels, which 
abound on the endless sea-coast. Most of them have 
small crofts, and a few of them are able to keep cows. 
Here and there reside wealthy tacksmen, who rent 
large farms, employ a good deal of labor, and people 
the wastes with cattle and sheep. These tacksmen 
rule the land with quite arbitrary sway. In their 
hands lies the welfare of the population. Many of 
them appear to be honest, kindly men, but there are 
evidences that some of them still keep their depen- 
dents as " scallags," in virtual slavery. 

Walk from one end of the Uists to the other and 
you will not meet a smiling face. It is not that the 
people are miserable, though they might be happier ; 
nor is it that they are apathetic, though they could be 
more demonstrative. With one and all of them life 
is a solemn business ; they have little time for sport 
— indeed, their disposition is not sportive. You must 
not joke with them — they do not understand; not 


because they are stupid, not because they are 
suspicious of your good faith, but merely because 
their visions, unlike the visions of brilliant races, are 
steady rather than fitful— seeing the world and things 
under one changeless ray of light, instead of by 
wonderful flashes. From the beginning to the end 
they have the same prospect, without summer, with- 
out flowers. AVild mirth-making in such a world 
would look like mountebanking among graves. 

Yet how tender they are ! how exquisitely fresh and 
kind ! They are the most home-loving people in the 
world ; that is one of the chief reasons why they do 
not venture more on the water at greater distances 
from the family croft. One meal under the dear old 
roof, with the women and the little ones gathered 
aroundabout, is sweeter than a dozen at a distance or 
on board ship ; hard fare and sorry sleeping in a hut 
on the waste, where the wife can rear her young and 
the old mother spin in the ingle, is to be preferred to 
fine service and good clothes anywhere else in the 
world. There is an old Gaelic saying common here, 
" A house without the cry of bairns is like a farm 
without kye or sheep." Next to this love of home, 
this yearning to be the center of a little circle, there 
dwells in the people of the islands a passionate fond- 
ness for localities. Uist is brighter to most than any 
promised land, however abundant the store of milk 
and honey. They know the place is bare and deso- 
late, they know that it becomes a sore, sore pinch to live 
on the soil, but they know also that their fiithers lived 
here before them, wedded here, died here, and (they 
fervently believe) went virtuously to heaven from 


here. True, some of the younger and livelier spirits 
express their willingness to emigrate, and do emigrate 
occasionally, exhilnting under the influence of licjuor 
plentifully distributed all the signs of exhilaration ; 
but such are exceptions, corrupted youngsters, canglit 
too early by the yellow itch of gold. Nothing is 
more noticeable in these islands than the demoralizing 
influence of civilization on the race. The farther one 
recedes from the seaports, from the large farms of the 
wealthy tacksman, from the domain of the shopkeeper 
and the schoolmaster, the brighter do the souls of the 
cotters grow, the opener their hands, the purer their 
morjfls, and the happier their homes. Whenever the 
great or little Sassenach comes, he leaves a dirty trail 
like the slime of the snake. He it is who abuses the 
people for their laziness, points sneeringly at their 
poor houses, spits scorn on their wretchedly cultivated 
scraps of land ; and he it is who, introducing the noble 
goad of greed, turns the ragged domestic virtues into 
well-dressed prostitutes, heartless and eager for hire. 
In the whole list of jobbers, excepting only the 
" mean whites " of the Southern States of America, 
there are few paltrier follows than the men who stand 
by Highland doors and interpret between ignorance 
and the great proprietors. They libel the race they 
do not understand, they deride the aflections they are 
too base to cultivate, they rob and plunder, and 
would exterminate wholly, the rightful masters of the 
soil. Thev are the acrents of civilization in such 
places as the Outer Hebrides; so that, if God does 
not help the civilized, it is tolerably clear that the 
Devil will. 


In the islands, beware of the civilized. The 
cultivated islander, like the Sassenach, gives you 
nothing in kindliness, charges you double for every- 
thing, and sees you go without any grief save that 
of lialf-satisfied greed. liecollect, nevertheless, that 
he is doing well, tills his ground well, and by-and-by, 
perhaps, will keep a little store, going on from little 
to biff tradino;, till he owns both land and boats. 
The poor, uncivilized islander, on the other hand, 
makes you welcome to his hearth, gives you " bite 
and sup " of the best, talks to you with free heart 
and honest sympathy, and is only hurt and pained 
if you try to repay hospitality with money. No 
matter how poor the hut, the stranger must have 
something — if not a drink of milk, the croft being 
too poor to support a cow, at least a draught of 
water in a clean basin. And the smile that sweetens 
such gifts is like Christ's turning water into wine. 
AYe shall not soon forget the pain and indignation 
of an old islander, while telling of his experience 
once in the Lowlands. He had been walking far, 
and was very thirsty, when he descried a snug 
cottage, with a clean, sonsy housewife standing on 
the thresliold. " Good wife," he said, after the 
usual greeting, " I am very dry ; can you give me 
a drink of milk ? " " We have nae milk," was the 
reply. " A drink of water then," said the wanderer. 
" Aweel," said the woman, "if you like i'll show ye 
the ^/_?<?//, but we hoe to fetch tlie water ourseVs ! " 
"My father and my mother," Baid our informant, 
after recounting the anecdote — " my father and my 
mother would liave risen screeching from their graves, 


had I greeted the stranger at their door witli such a 

Such are some of the people's virtues — philopro- 
genitiveness (rather a doubtful virtue this in tlie eyes 
of some political economists!), honesty, hospitality. 
[N^ote, too, a few of tlieir faults, or, as some would 
say, their vices. Their stanchest friend cannot say 
that they are over-clean. They will sometimes litter 
like pigs, when by a little trouble they might live like 
human beings ; and they do not always comb their 
hair. Then, again, they don't and won't go in for 
" improvements." The house their parents lived in 
is good enongh for them — a herring-barrel is good 
enough for a chimney, clay is good enough for a 
floor. They would feel chilly in a bigger dwelling. 
They are used to the thick peat-smoke, the pig by 
the fire, the hens on the rafters — perhaps, too, in the 
season, the oalf in a corner. A philosopher may say 
— " Why not ? " 

One picture of a cottage may be as good as a 
dozen. Imagine, then, a wall, five or six feet thick, 
tapering inward, and thereon, springing about a foot 
within the outer edge of the wall, a roof of turf and 
thatch, held down by heather ropes set close together, 
and having at either ends great stones abont twenty 
pounds in weight. The interior is divided by a 
wooden partition into two portions, the " but " and 
the " ben." The calf is in a corner, and the hens 
roost on the beams overhead. The floor is clay, 
baked hard with the heat of the peat fire. The roof 
is soot-black, having a hole in the top, with a herring 
barrel for a chimney. From the center descends a 


heavy chain, with a hook at the end whereon to hang 
the great black kettle. The mistress of the house 
squats on her hams at the door, and, leaning her 
cheek on her hands, watches you approach. The pig 
is paddling in the puddle close by. Perhaps, if the 
house is prosperous, the pony is grazing a short 
distance, with his forelegs tied to prevent his run- 
ning away. 

A stranger, wandering here, will be struck by the 
fact that, although the dwellings are bo wretched, the 
dress of the poor inhabitants is remarkably good, 
showing few signs of poverty. Almost, all wear home- 
spun, and as much of it as possible — stout, coarse 
tweeds for the men, and thick flannels for the women. 
Nearly every house has a spinning-wheel, many 
houses possess a loom ; a few have both ; and a busy 
sight it is to see the comely daughter working at the 
loom, while the mother spins at her side, and even 
the man knits himself a pair of stockings while he 
smokes his pipe in the corner. The men, as well as 
the women are excellent weavers. 

Another point that will strike a stranger, in the 
Uists especially, is the enormous number of ponies. 
Where they come from, what they are useful for, we 
have been unable to find out ; but they literally 
swarm, and nnist be a serious encumbrance to the 
population. We were offered a splendid little filly 
for thirty shillings. 

Thus far nothing has been said of the dec]), inner 
life of this people. Little as we have seen, and less 
as we understand, of that^ we see and underetand 
enough for great emotion. Put the spiritual nature 


aside in estimating capabilities, and you exclude all 
that is greatest and most signilicant. Now, directly 
the mental turn of the islanders is apprehended, it is 
clear at a glance why they must inevitably sink and 
perish in the race with the southerner or east- 
countryman. They are too ruminant by nature, too 
slow to apprehend new truths. They are saddened 
by a deep, clinging sense that the world is haunted. 
They have faith in witchcraft, in prophecy, in 
charms. If a stranger looks too keenly at a child, 
they pray God to avert " the evil eye." They believe 
that gold and gems are bidden in obscure corners 
of the hills, but that only supernatural powers know 
where. Tliey have seen the " Men of Peace," or Scot- 
tish fays, with bhie bonnets on their heads, pushing 
from shore the boat that is found adrift days after- 
ward. Some of their old women retain the sec- 
ond sight. Strange sounds — sometimes like human 
voices, at others like distant bagpipes — are heard 
about their dwelhngs when any one is going to die. 
they tremble at the side of " fairy wells." They 
have the Gruagach, or Banshee. In short, they have 
a credulous turn of mind, not entirely disbelieving, 
even when they know the evidence to be very 
doubtful, for they aver that the world is fuller of 
wonders than any one man knows.^ In their daily 
life, at births, at weddings, at funerals, they keep 
such observances as imply a deep sense of the pa- 

* MacCulloch, writing in 1824 speaks of such superstitions as 
virtually extinct over all the Highlands. " The EQghlanders," 
he says, " now believe as much as their Pictish and Saxon neigh- 
bors ; " and he proceeds, in his usual silly fashion, to rake up all 


tlietic nature of human ties. The voices of winds 
and waters are in their hearts, and they passionately 
believe in God. 

It is still the custom, in the TJists and in Barra, to 
gather together on the long winter nights, and listen 
to the strange stories recited by aged men and women. 
These stories have been handed down from generation 
to generation, and are very curious indeed, dealing 
with traditions obviously originating in pre-historic 
periods.* The listeners know all about Ossian and 
Fingal, and regard them almost as real beings. Here 
and there in the islands reside men famous for their 
good stories, of which they are very proud. Some of 
them are familiar with ancient poems, full of sea 
sounds and the cries of the wind. With these stories 
and poems — tales of enchanted lands and heavenly 
music — they keep their hearts up in a desolate and 
lonely world ; but on all such subjects they are very 
silent to the stranger, until he has managed to win 
their confidence and disarm their pride. 

the large names he can muster, for the purpose of showing that 
their superstitions were always plagiarisms of the most common- 
place kind With his usual felicity in quoting at random, he 
throws no light whatever on the subject. We wonder if he ever 
came in contact with a Celt of the true breed. Doubtless ; but, 
lacking insight, he saw no speculation in the visionary eyes. Even 
a long night s talk with Ilamish Sliaw would have had no effect 
on this queer compound of pedantry and skittishness — this man 
of prodigious Latinisms and elephantine jokes. Yet his letters 
were addressed to Walter Scott, who was doubtless much edified 
by their familiarity and endless verbiage. 

* For a full feast of Highland legends of the traditional kind, 
consult Mr. Campbell's " Popular Tales." 


With such ;i people, religion is naturally a vital 
thing, important us life itself. The poor women will 
travel miles on miles to hear mass, or (if Protestants) 
to take the communion. It is held an evil thing to 
miss religious ceremonial on the Sabbath. In all af- 
fairs of joy or sorrow, there is one straight appeal to 
the Fountain-IIead — the Lord God who reigns in 
heaven. Dire is the suffering that can be borne when 
the Bufferer is told by the priest that it is "God's 

What dullness ! what a civilization ! How inferior 
are these benighted beings to their instructors — the 
petty tradesmen and the small factors ! How blessed 
will the islands be when the present demoralizing in- 
fluences are withdrawn, and the paupers possess in 
their place the huckster's scales and the grocer's tal- 
low candle ! 

'2[)2 THE LAND 01'' LOllNE. 



Sealguir thu mar a "nihai-bhas thu GeadJi a's Corr' a's Orotach.—'' 
Bportsman, when killest thou goose, and heron, and cniley/f "—IIigfda7id 

The Sportsmen and their Dog— The Hunter's Badge— The Weapons- 
Shooting in the Fjords— Eiders, Cormorants, Ciu-lcws- Duck-Shooting 
near Loch Boisdale— The Tern at Anchor in'Lock Huport— Starvation— 
Wild-Goosc Shooting on Loch Bee— The Shepherd's Gifts— Goose-Shoot- 
ing on Loch Phlogibeg — TheMdancholy Loch— Breeding-Places of the 
Wild-Fowl— Rain-storm — "Bonny Kilmeny " — Short Rations— Tho 
Passing Ship— Red Deer, Salmon, and Eagles — Corbies and Ravens— 
Seal-Shooting in the Maddy Fjords— Reflection on Wild Sports in Gen- 

If the gentle reader be a sportsman of the usual 
breed, serious, professional, perfect in training, a dead 
shot at any reasonable distance, and at any object, 
from a snipe to a buffalo, it is with no respectful feel- 
ings that he will hear of our hunting raids through 
the Iligliland wilds. We were three — the Wanderer, 
Hamish Shaw, and the dog Schneider, so named in a 
fit of enthusiasm, after seeing Mr. Jefferson's " Kip 
Yan Winkle." The Wanderer would have been a 
terrible fellow in the field if he had not been short- 
sighted, and in the habit of losing his spectacles. As 


it is, he was at least terribly in earnest, and could con- 
trive to hit a large object, if he did not aim at it witli. 
any particular attempt to be accurate. Hamish Shaw 
was not great at flying game, but he was mightily 
successful in sneaking up for close shots at unsus- 
pecting and sitting conies, and his eye was as sharp as 
a backwoodsman's in picking up objects at a distance. 
The third member of the party, Schneider, the dog, was 
of the gentler sex, wayward, willful, for the lack of 
careful training during her infancy, apt to take her 
own way in hunting matters, until brought to a due 
sense of decorum by a vigorous application of the 
switch. She was, in fact, a noble specimen of the 
species Briggs, having been trained by the Wanderer 
himself, with the usual triumphant result in such 
cases ; so that, if no sheep caught her eye, and a keen 
watch was kept upon her movements, she could be de- 
pended on for a stalk or a chase quite as much as 
either of her masters. Though she could not point or 
set, she was a tolerable retriever, and few dogs of any 
kind could match her for long and steady labor in the 

Now, it was the fixed detemiination of the Wander- 
er, on again roaming northward, once and forever to 
prove his title to the hunter's badge, by killing, ac- 
cording to the requirements of the old Highland for- 
mula, a red deer, a salmon, an eagle, a seal, and a 
wild-swan, every one of which he religiously swore to 
Bkin and stuff as eternal credentials, testifying unmis- 
takably that he was a man of prowess in the field. 
All these, of course, had to be slain single-handed, un- 
aided by any more complicated weapons of destruc- 


tion than the rifle, the fowling-piece, and the rod. 
Cunningly enough, he had fixed on Uist and the ad- 
jacent islands as an excellent place to begin his labors, 
and perhaps achieve the crowning honors of them all. 
The red deer, he knew, were certainly not numerous 
there; but the system of stalking them places the 
possibilities strongly in favor of the hunter, who lies 
securely hidden, close to one of the paths the game 
is sure to take when driven by boatmen from the ad- 
jacent small islands where they feed. Salmon were 
plentiful in the great lochs communicating with the 
sea, and in some of the larger rivers. The lesser seals 
swarmed at all times, while during winter even the 
great Arctic monster brooded on Ilaskeir, and played 
splashingly at leapfrog through the Sound of Harris. 
Here and there, hovering over the inaccessible peaks, 
poised the eagle, in all the glory of his freedom, while 
the ravens croaked jealously on the shadowy crags 
below. As for the hoopers, solitary specimens had 
been known to alight on the lonely lochans even dur- 
ing the sunny season, and in winter the huge migra- 
tants landed in swarms — no very difficult mark for the 
hunter's bullet or " swan-post." 

These were the mighty game, the hierarchy of the 
hunter's heaven — ^beautiful, distant, not readily to be 
won, until drawn down by the music of the whizzing 
ball. But the Wanderer was not proud ; he had an 
eye to lesser game, and being inoculated at that time 
with the least bit of the naturalist's enthusiasm, he 
longed greedily for additions to his museum. Where- 
fore the eider-duck, and the merganser, and the grebe, 
and all the various tribes of sea-birds and land-birds?. 


were carefully marked for addition to the list of speci- 
mens culled by that steadfast hand. Then there was 
the cabin-table to be catered for ; and rapturously was 
it noted that wild-ducks, and plovers, and moor-fowl, 
and conies were numerous in all the islands, and that 
the monster wild-goose, a still more noble quarry, was 
breeding in seeming security in the hearts of all the 
greater moorland lochs.* 

* In that curious and scarce little book on the Western Hebri- 
des, published by the Rev. John Lane Buchanan, in 1793, there is 
a marvelous account of the ornithological treasures to be found 
in the islands. The naivete with which the reverend gentleman 
retails his wonders is very comical : 

•' The species of land and sea-fowls over all this country," he 
begins, " are too many to be mentioned in so limited a work as 
this. Tarmachans, plovers, blackbirds, starlings (or dimddan), 
red muir cocks and hens ducks and wild-geese by thousands, 
particularly on the plains of South Uist, and elsewhere ; wood- 
cocks, snipes, ravens, carrion-crows, herons, bats, owls, all kinds 
of hawks and eagles, so large and strong, that they carry off 
lambs, kids, fawns, and the weaker kind of sheep and foala. 
They have been known to attack even cows, horses, and stags ; 
and their nests are frequently found to be plentifully supplied 
with fish, which, in what are called plays of fish, they pick up 
from tlie surface of the sea. 

'' A species of robbery, equally singular and cruel, was lately 
practised in this country very commonly, and sometimes at this 
day, in which the eagles are the principal actors. The thieves, 
coming upon the eaglets in their nests, in the absence of their 
dams, sew up the extremity of the great gut ; so that the poor 
creatures, tortured by obstructions, express their sense of pain in 
frequent and loud screams. The eagle, imagining their cries to 
proceed from hunger, is unwearied in the work of bringing in 
t'resh prey, to satisfy, as he thinks, their craving appetites. But 
all that spoil is carried home by the thieves at night, when they 
come to give a momentary relief to the eaglets, for the purpose 
ct prolonging, for their own. base ends, their miserable existence. 


Tliese were the weapons : a Snider rifle, a double- 
baiTel breech-loader, good for stopping small game on 
the hillsides ; and a long shoulder duck-gun. Big Ben- 
jamin by name, good for any or every thing at a hun- 

Tliis infernal practice is now wearing fast away, being strictly 
watched by the gentlemen, and severely punished. Mr. Mac- 
Kenzie, for every eagle killed in Lewis, gives a half-crown. One 
of those large eagles was taken in the Isle of Hemes, at Tarbert, 
together with a large turbot, in which the animal had fastened 
its talons, when asleep at the surface of the water, so as not to be 
able to disengage them. The eagle, with his large wings ex- 
panded like sails, drove before the wind into the harbor, where 
lie was taken alive (his feet being entangled in the turbot) by the 
country people. 

" Birds of passage, of several kinds, are seen over all the isles. 
Swans, cuckoos, swallows, lapwings, plovers, etc., and wild-fowls. 
of several kinds, rendered tame, are often seen about the yards, 
dunghills, and doors of houses, among the poultry. 

" The Bishop Carara, or Bunubhuachil, is larger than any goose, 
of a brown color, the inside of the wing white, the bill long and 
broad. It dives quicker than any other bird. It was never known 
to fly, the wings being too short to carry a weight seldom under 
but often above, sixteen pounds. 

" The black cormorant is not held in much estimation by the 
islanders ; but such as have white feathers in their wings, and 
white down on their bodies, are famous for making soup or broth 
of a delicate taste and flavor. 

" The Western Hebrid(>s abound in solan-geese, seagulls, and 
singing-ducks, of a size somewhat less than that of common ducks. 
They are constantly employed, eithe'' in diving for sand-eels, 
which are of a speckled color, like leeches, or in sitting together 
in flocks, and singing, which is heard at the distance of half a 
mile, and is accounted very pleasing music. 

" The duck calh^d the Crawgiabh, is larger than a Muscovy 
duck, and almost tame — you may approach very near it before it 
takes wing — and is frequently kept by gentlemen among tlie 
other poultry. 


clred yards, and certain, if loaded with the duo amount 
of shot and powder, to stretch low the unwary shoot- 
er with its sharp recoil. Theii there was the rod, a 
slight tiling, but clever and pliant, besides being very 
portable, and the six or seven kinds of Hies — the dark 
wild-drake's wing, with white tip, being found the 

" Rain-Ooose. — This fowl is always heard at a great distance 
betote a storm ; it is almost as large as a goose. 

" DrUlechaii, or Water-Magpie. — This bird is larger than a land- 
magpie, beautifully speckled, with a long, sharp, and strong bill, 
red as blood. It nevei swims, but Hies from place to place, fol- 
lowing the ebb, picking up spout-fish. They are silent during 
the flow of the tide, and begin to whistle the moment it turns. 

" Stamngs. — This bird appears in spring on these coasts, about 
the size of a hawk, with long, sharp-pointed wings, extremely 
noisy and daring. They are speckled, but the prevailing color is 

" Fasgatar. — This bird is of blackish-blue, as large as a hawk, 
and is constantly pursuing the starnags through the air, to force 
them to throw out of their mouths whatever they have eaten ; 
and the vile creatures catch every atom of wlip.t the others throw 
out before it reaches the water. It will sometimes venture to sit 
on any boat, if the passengers have provisions, and throw out 
any, by way of encouraging its approaches. 

" Wild Daves. — Every cave and clift is full of wild doves." 

The above needs a little comment. The eagle story may be 
taken at its worth ; but the rain-goose and the Bishop Carara 
fairly puzzle us — unless by the latter is meant the loon. The 
driUedian, which has a bill "as red as blood," and which 
whistles " at the turn of the tide," is, of course, the little seapie, 
or oyster-catcher. The starnags may be a species of gull, and 
the fasgaiar, the herring-hawk, so hateful to honest fishers. 
As for the singing-duck, the only bird at all answering to the de- 
scription is the ice-duck, whose strangely eerie cry is perhaps 
" pleasing," but, assuredly, very melancholy. " Calloo ! calloo ! " 
it moans aloud during windy weather, in a voice like the cry of 
a child in mortal pain. 


finest for trout in all those gloomy waters. Besides 
these, there was the telescope, taken in preference to 
a binocular field-glass, as being at once more power- 
ful and more sportsmanlike — but voted a bore in the 
sequel, always getting lost if carried in the hands, and 
when slung over the shoulders by a strap, constantly 
dangling forward in the way of the gun when the 
shooter stooped, or suddenly loosening at the critical 
moment, before firing, to scare the purposed victim 
away with a savage rattle ! 

There were two ways of hunting — on foot, over the 
moors, and on water, through the winding fjords. Of 
the two, we preferred the latter — deeming it the more 
enjoyable, and less wearisome to the body. 

Floating hither and thither with the lug-sail, a 
light air guiding the punt surely, though slowly, to- 
ward the victims, Ilamish at the helm, Schneider fret- 
ting in the bottom, the Wanderer crouching with 
cocked gun in the bows, we soon accumulated speci- 
mens of the many species of ducks, the male and fe- 
male eider, the black guillemot, the herring-hawk, the 
black scart and green shag, and the calloo. All and 
each of these birds we roasted and tasted after the 
skinning, having determined to give a fair trial to 
every morsel that fell to rod or gun ; out of them all, 
the only eatable birds were the eiders, and to devour 
them, with a relish would require an appetite. As 
for the scart, angels and ministers of graco defend us 
from that taste again 1 The rakings of greasiest ship's 
pantry, the scrapings of the foulest cook's colander, 
mingled with meat from the shambles and stinking 
fish from the seashore, could not surpass its savor 1 

yroKT IN Till: wilds 259 

Yet the fislienneii praise it hugely, and devour it 
with greed. At St. Kilda, where the chief diet of tlie 
iiiliabitaiits consists of sea-fowl, and elsewhere over all 
the islands, the birds are prized as food exactly in 
proportion to their fishy and oily taste ; the stronger 
the savor, the more precious the prize. 

Of all common birds that fly, commend us to the 
curlew ; for we are by no means of that tribe of 
sportsmen who like an easy prey, and in our eyes 
the more difficult the chase the more glorious the 
sport. The curlew has two noble qualities. Kept 
till the right minute, cooked to a turn, delicately 
basted, and served with sweet sauce, it equals any 
bird that flies, is more delicate than the grouse, 
richer than the partridge, and plumper than the 
snipe. Then, still better, it is, without any exception 
whatever, the most difficult of all English birds to 
catch unawares, or to entice bv any device within 
shooting distance. It is the watchman of birds — the 
shyest, the most vigilant, the most calculating. It 
knows better than yourself how far your gun can 
carry; and with how mocking and shrill a pipe it 
rises and wheels away, just as you fiatter yourself it 
is within gunshot ! Poor will be your chance at the 
wild-duck on the shore, if the whaup be near ; for his 
sharp eye will spy you out, as you crawl forward face 
downward, and at his shrill warning, "whirr" will 
sound the wings of the quacking flock, as they rise 
far over your head, and you rise shaking oif the dirt 
and cursing the tell-tale. When a band of curlews 
alight, bo sure that not one avenue of approach is un- 
guarded ; look with a telescope, and mark the outly- 


ing guards — one high up on a rock, another peering 
round the comer of a cliff, a third far up on the land, 
and a last straggler perha})S passing over your own 
head with a whistle to his brethren. In all our sport- 
ing experience — and it has been, long, if not glorious — 
we have known only one of these birds to have 
been shot sitting^ and this one was slain on a hillside 
by Hamish Shaw, who strapt his gun upon his back, 
and crawled through the heather on his stomach, like 
a snake! 

Let the sportsman who has distinguished himself 
on the moors or among the turnip iields, and boasts 
loudly of his twenty brace, try his hand at a day's 
curlew shooting, and if on a first or second trial he 
bags enough dinner for a kestrel, we will call him the 
prince of shooters. In the breeding season only is it 
possible to shoot this bird easily, without an accurate 
knowledge of its habits, or much experience of its 
wary arts ; but who destroys the bird-mother or her 
tender mate ? 

The Wanderer and Hamish Shaw slew many a 
whaup in the fjords at Boisdale, Nowhere in the 
Highlands were these birds so plentiful — they gathered 
in great flocks, literally darkening the sky ; but no- 
where, also, were they shyer and wilder, for the num- 
berless pairs of eyes told hugely against the shooter. 
A little was done by seeking concealed station, and 
having the birds driven as much as possible in that 
direction ; but tlje most successful plan was to row the 
punt Slowly to the spot where the birds thronged the 
rocks, with their heads and bodies all turned one way, 
and when they arose screaming, to run the chance of 


picking oir solitary individuals at long distances. It 
was found that the culew always felt himself perfectly 
safe flying at eighty or ninety yards; and, with 
careful shooting and proper loading, Big Benjamin 
could do wonders at that distance at any tolerably- 
sized bird on the wing. 

In the greater inland locl>6 of Boisdale, while the 
Tern was flying in the harbor, the wild-duck were 
plentiful, and they were vigorously hunted on two 
occasions by our sportsmen and the dog. It was not 
such easy work as duck-shooting often is, for all the 
shores of the lochs were covered with deep sedge and 
reeds, stretching out far into the water, and afi'ording 
safe cover to innumerable coots and dabchicks, as 
well as to the ducks themselves. Schneider, however, 
performed famously, swimming and forcing his way 
through the green forest, till he startled many a bird 
to the open. 

Enough of such ignoble chronicling of small beer. 
"Wliaups, wild-ducks dabchicks — these are to be found 
on every moor and lochan south, as well as north, of 
the Tweed. But what says the reader to the wild- 
goose ? A more noticeable fellow sm'ely, and well 
worthy of the sportsman's gun. Even far south in 
England, in severe weather, you have been startled 
by the loud " quack, quack, quack," above your head, 
and looking upward, you have seen, far up in the air, 
the flock flying swiftly, in the shape of a wedge, 
wending, God knows whither, with outstretched necks, 
in noble flight. The tame-goose, the fat, waddling, 
splay-footed, hissing gosling, all neck and bottom, is 
an eye-sore, a monstrosity, fit only for the honor's of 


onion-stuffing and apple-sauce, at the Christmas season ; 
but his wild kinsman is Hyperion to a satyr, noble 
as well as beautiful, winged like an eagle, powerful as 
a swan, not easily to be slain by Cockney gun, not 
easily to be surpassed in his grand flight by Cockney 
imagination. Now, we had long known that the 
wild-goose bred in the wilds of Uist, and we longed 
to take him in his lair ; and pursue him we did at 
last, under circumstances most clearly warranting 
bird-slaughter, if ever such circumstances occuiTed in 
our chequered lifetime. 

We had been storm-staid for a week in Loch Hu- 
port, a lonely sea-fjord, about midway between Loch 
Boisdale and Loch Maddy, affording a snug anchor- 
age in one of its numerous bays — Macpherson's Bay 
by name. So wild were the squalls for days that we 
could not safely get on shore with the punt, although 
we were anchored scarcely two hundred yards from 
land. Kow, by sheer blockheadedncss, having calcu- 
lated on reaching Loch Maddy and its shops at least 
a fortnight before, we had run short of nearly every- 
thing — bread, biscuits, sugar, tea, coffee, drink of all 
kinds ; and but for a supply of eggs and milk, brought 
off at considerable peril from a lonely hut a few miles 
away, we should have been in sore distress indeed. 
At last, the "Wanderer and Ilamish Shaw went off for 
a forage, with guns and dog, determined, if all else 
failed, and they could not purchase supplies, to do 
justifiable murder on a helpless sheep. Though the 
wind was still high, they sailed up Loch Huport with 
the punt and lug-sail, and having reached the head of 
the loch, and drawn the boat up high and dry, they 


Bet ofi' on foot with Big Benjamin and the double- 

About five hundred yards distant, and communicat- 
ing with Loch lluport by a deep, artificial trench, 
nearly passable by a boat at high tide, lies anotlier 
smaller loch of brackish water, wliich, in its turn, com- 
municates, through reedy shallows, with a great loch 
reaching almost to the Western Ocean. Dean Monro, 
who visited the place long ago, speaks of the latter 
as famous for its red mullet — " ano fish the size and 
shape of ane salmont ; " and it stitl abounds in both 
fresh-water and ocean fishes : 

" For to this lake, by night and day 
The great sea-water finds its way. 
Through long, long windings of the hills. 
And drinks up all the pretty rills. 
And rivers large and strong." * 

The smaller loch was only about half a mile broad, 
so the sportsmen determined to separate, each taking 
one of the banks ; Hamish Shaw shoulderino; Big Ben- 
jamin,which was heavily charged with the largest drop- 
shot, and the Wanderer the double-barrel. Shortly 
after the parting, the "Wanderer saw an aged Celt, 
who was fishing for sethe with bait — coarse twine for 
a line, and a piece of cork for a float ; and this worthy, 
after recovering from the shock of seeing an armed 
Sassenach at his shoulder, averred that there were 
plenty of " geeses " up the loch. " The geeses is big 
and strong, but she'll only just be beginning to flee 
awa' " — a statement which we intei-preted to mean 

* Wordsworth's " Highland Boy." 


that the young birds were fully fledged, and able to 
rise upon their wings. 

The shores of the Loch were boggy and covered 
with deep herbage, with great holes here and there 
as pitfalls to the unwary pedestrian ; and the "Wan- 
derer stumbled along for about a mile without seeing 
80 much as the glint of a passing wing. At last, he 
perceived a small and desolate island, over which 
two black-backed gulls hovered, screaming at the sight 
of the stranger. From a corner of this island rose 
a duck, and sped swiftly, out of gunshot, down the 
water. The Wanderer waded, sure that it must 
wheel ; and wheel it did, after flying five hundred 
yards, and passed back close over its head. Down it 
came, plump as a stone. Alas ! only a good duck, 
with its buff breast and saw-toothed bill ; and a 
mother too, for out from the weedy point of the 
island, diving in unconcern, paddled her uve young, 
earning their own living already, though they were 
only wingless little lumps of down. The wanderer 
bagged his bird disappointedly, for he had been on 
short rations for days, and had made sure of a mallard. 

A cry from Ilamish Shaw! He was standing 
across the water, pointing backward up the Loch, and 
shouting out a sentence, of which only one word — 
" geese t" — was audible. The Wanderer crept 
stealthily to the water's edge, and espied a number 
of large birds seated on the water a quarter of a mile 
away. The telescope soon proving the blissful truth 
that these were " the geese," it was hurriedly arranged 
in pantomime that Hamish should creep back and 
press the birds gently forward, without approaching 

SrORT IN Til''. WILDS. 2G5 

SO close as to compel them to rise, while the Wan- 
derer, with hi>i (log, crouched behind a rock on the 
water's edge, ready to attack the unwary ones as 
they swam past. " To heel, Schneider — down ! " 
With burning eyes and panting breath crouched the 
dog ; for, thank heaven ! it was one of her good days, 
and not a sheep was nigh. 

It was one of those periods of awful suspense known 
only to the man who shoots — a quarter of an hour of 
agony — the knees soaking in muddy weeds, the per- 
spiration rolling down the cheeks — an unaccountable 
and fiercely resisted desire to sneeze suddenly taking 
possession of the nose — one eye, in an agony, glaring 
command on the animal, the other peering, at the 
approaching game. And now, horror of horrors ! 
it is beginning to mizzle. The spectacles get 
misted over every minute, and they are wiped with 
a hand that trembles like an aspen leaf. Suppose 
the piece, at the last moment should refuse to 
go off? A bad cartridge, on this occasion, means 
no less than semi-starvation ! There they are — 
little more than a hundred yards away — a mighty 
gander, gray headed and jaunty, leading the way, 
a female a few yards behind, then another gander 
and his wife, and lastly four fat young geese, nearly 
as big as their parents, but duller in their attire and 
far less cm*ious in their scrutiny of surrounding 
objects. Hush! the first gander is abreast of us — we 
have to hold down the dog by main force. We do 
not fire, for our hearts are set on the young brood ; 
they will be tender — papa will be tough. Perdition ! 
Schneider, driven to frenzy, and vainly trying to 



escape, utters a low and hideous wliine — the old 
ganders and geese start in horror — tliey flutter, 
splash, rise — and there is just time to take rapid aim 
at one young goose, just dragging itself into the air, 
when the dog plunges into the water, and the whole 
portly covey are put to rout. 

As the smoke of the gun clears away, all the 
geese are invisible but one, which lies splashing on 
the surface, mortally wounded; him Schneider ap- 
proaches to secure, but, appalled by a hiss, a beat of 
the wings, a sudden sign of showing fight, turns off 
and would retreat ignominiously to shore. She has 
never tackled such a monster since a certain eventful 
day when she was nearly murdered by another 
wounded bird, also a goose, but of a different kind — 
a solan, or a gannet. Dire is the language which tlie 
Wanderer hurls at her head, fierce the reproaches, 
bitter the taunting reminiscences of other mishaps by 
flood and field ; till at last, goaded by mingled shame 
and wrath, the dog turns, showing her teeth, de- 
spatches the foe with one fell snap, and begins trailing 
him to shore. Meanwhile, the Wanderer hears a 
loud report in the distance — crash ! roar ! — unmis- 
takably the voice of Benjamin, adding doubtless to 
the list of slain. 

Flushed with triumph, for at least one meal was 
secure, the Wanderer slung the spoil over his 
shoulder, patted the dog in forgiveness of all sins, 
and made his way over to the other side as rapidly 
as possible. Arrived there, he looked everywhere for 
Ilamish, but saw no sign of that doughty Celt. At 
last his eye fell on something white lying among the 


heather ; and lo ! an aged gander, blood-stained, 
dead as a stone. Then, emerging from the deep 
herbage, rose the liead of Shaw — a ghastly sight ; 
for the face was all cut and covered with blood. An 
old story ! Held in hands not well used to his ways, 
Big Benjamin had taken advantage of the occasion, 
and, uttering his diabolical roar, belging forwards 
and kicking backwards, had slain a gander, and 
nearly murdered a man at the same time. 

A little water cleared away the signs of battle, 
but Hamish still rubbed his cheek and shoulder, 
vowing never to have any more dealings with such 
a gun so long as he lived. After a rest and a drop 
of water from the flask, tracks were made homeward, 
and just as the gloaming was beginning, the fruit of 
the forage was trimnphantly handed over to the cook 
on board the yacht. 

Blessings do not come singly. By the side of the 
yacht, and nearly as big as herself, was a boat from 
shore, offering for sale new potatoes, fresh milk, and 
eggs. On board were a shepherd and his wife, who, 
living in an obscure bay of the loch, had only just 
heard of the yacht's arrival. The man was a little 
red-headed fellow, wiry and lissome ; his wife might 
have passed for a Spanish gipsy, with her straight 
and stately body, her dark, fine features and glit- 
tering black eyes, and the colored handkerchief 
setting oif finely a complexion of tawny olive. 
Kindly and courteous, hearing that a " lady " was 
on board, they liad brought as a present to her 
two beautiful birds — a young male kestrel and a 
young hooting owl, which from that day became 


members of the already too numerous household 
on board the Tefrn. The kestrel lives yet — a nau- 
tical bird, tame as possible, never tired of swinging 
on a perch on the deck of a ship ; but the owl, 
christened " The Chancellor," on account of his wig, 
disappeared one day overboard, and was in all 
probability drowned. 

The shepherd was a mountaineer, and was well ac- 
quainted with the ways and haunts of birds. He 
knew of only one pair of eagles in that neighborhood, 
and from his vague description, translated to us by 
Ilamish Shaw, we could not make out to what 
precise species of eagle he referred. He had harried 
the nest that spring, but the young had died in his 
hands, and he was afraid the old birds would forsake 
the mountain. In answer to our questions about 
sport, he said that the small lochans close by attract- 
ed a large number of birds, but if we wished a 
genuine day of wild-fowl-hunting, we must go to Loch 
Phlogibeg, two miles in the interior, where the geese 
were legion. He recommended us to get the punt 
carried across the hills — a feat which might speedily 
be achieved by vigorous work on the part of four 
strong men. 

As it was still too windy next morning to think of 
lifting anchor and urging the yacht farther on her 
journey up the open coast, the punt was taken to 
shore at an early hour by Ilamish and the Wanderer ; 
and an aged shepherd and his son, living in a cottage 
on the banks of the fjord, were soon persuaded to 
assist in carrying the boat overland. It was warm 
work. The hills were steep and full of great holes 


between the lieather, and the earth was sodden with 
rain which had fallen during the night. Fortunately, 
however, there intervened, between the sea and Loch 
Phlogibeg, no less than four smaller lochs, over which 
the punt was rowed successively, thus reducing the 
land journey from two miles to little more than half a 
mile. And lovely, indeed, were these little lochans of 
the hills, nestling among the hollows, their water of 
exquisite limpid brown, and the water-lilies floating 
thereon so thickly that the path of the boat seemed 
strewn with flowers. Small trout leaped at intervals, 
leaving a ring of light that widened and died. From 
one little pool, no larger than a gentleman's drawing- 
room, and appareled in a many-colored glory no 
upholsterer could equal, we startled a pair of beautiful 
red-throats — but the guns were empty, and the prize 
escaped. There were ducks also, and flappers num- 
berless — stately herons, too, rising at our approach 
with a clumsy flap of the great black wings, and 
tumbling over and over in the air, when out of the 
reach of danger, in awkward and unwieldy play. 

What is stiller than a heron on a promontory ? 
Moveless he stands, arching his neck and eyeing the 
water with one steadfast gaze. Hours pass — he has 
not stirred a feather ; fish are scarce ; but sooner or 
later, an eel will slip glittering past that very spot, 
and be secured by one thrust of the mighty bill. He 
will wait on, trusting to Providence, hungry though 
he is. Not till he espies your approach does he 
change his attitude. "Watchful, yet still, he now 
stands sidelong, stretching out his long neck with a 


serpentine motion, till, unable to bear the suspense 
any longer, he rises into the air. 

At last, all panting, we launched the punt on 
Phlogibeg. Delicious, indeed, at that moment, would 
have been a drop of distilled waters, but the last 
whisky-bottle had been empty for days, and was not 
to be replenished in those regions. Having despatched 
the Highlanders liomeward, with a promise from 
them to aid in the transport of the boat on the return 
journey next day, the Wanderer and his henchman 
prepared the guns and set oif in search of sport. 

Loch Phlogibeg is a large and solitary mere, in the 
heart of a melancholy place. Around it the land 
undulates into small hills, with bogs and marshes 
between, and to the southeast, high mountains of 
gneiss, with crags and precipices innumerable, rise 
ashen gray into the clouds. All is very desolate — 
the bare mountains, the windy flats, the ever-somber 
sky. There is not a tree or shrub ; instead of under- 
wood, stones and boulders strew the w^aste. The 
mere itself is black as lead ; small islands rise here 
and there, heaped round with rocks and stones, and 
covered inside with deep, rank grass and darnel. 
Everywhere in the water jut up pieces of rock — some- 
times a whole drift-reef, like a ribbed wall ; and at the 
western end are the ruins of a circular tower, or dune, 
looking eerie in the dim twilight of the dull and 
doleful air. 

But now we are afloat, pulling against a chill, moist 
wind. Hark ! The air, which was before so still, is 
broken by unearthly screams. The inhabitants of the 
lonely place are up in arms, yelling us away from 


their nests and young. Look at tlic terns, pulsing up 
and down in the air with that strange, spasmodic 
l)eat of the wings, curving the little black head down- 
ward, and uttering their endless creaking croak. 
Why, that little fellow, swift as an arrow, descended 
almost to our faces, as if to peck out our eyei5; we 
could have struck him witli a staff"! Numberless 
gulls, large and small, white and dark, all hovering 
liither and thither, above our heads, now unite in the 
chorus; and two of the large, black-backed species 
loin the flying band, but, unlike the rest, voice their 
indignation only at long intervals. The din is fright- 
ful ! all the fiends are loose ! Yet numerous as are 
the criers in the air, they are only a fraction of the 
swai-ms visible in the loch — flocks of them sitting 
moveless on the island shores, solitary ones perching 
on the straggling rocks where they protrude through 
the water, others floating and feeding far out from 
land. See yonder monster gull, perched on a stone ; she 
looks huge as an eagle, with back as black as ebony, 
breast as white as snow, and large and glistening eyes ; 
she does not move as we approach, but her frantic mate 
hovers above us and tries to scream us away. Though 
sorely tempted to secure so magnificent a bird, we 
spare her, partly for the sake of her young, partly 
(and more selfislily) for fear of frightening from the 
loch other and more precious game. Note tlfe 
smaller and darker plumaged birds, paddling swiftly 
here and there close to the rocks ; they are young 
gulls, recently launched out on the great water of 

All this life only deepens the desolation of the 


meie. There is a hollow sadness in the air, which 
the weird screech of the birds cannot break. 

But the geese — where are they ? Not one is visible 
as yet ; we have not even heard a quack. Is it, indeed, 
to be a wild-goose chase, but only in the figurative 
sense, not literally ? No — for Hamish, with his lynx- 
Jike eye, has picked out the flock afar away; he points 
them out again and again — there! and there! — but 
the Wanderer, wipe his spectacles as he will, can see 
nothing. With the telescope, however, he at last 
makes them out — a long line upon the water, number- 
less heads and necks. What a swarm ! Surely all 
the geese of Uist have gathered here this day to dis- 
cuss some solemn business ! It is the very parliament 
of geese — grave, traditional — beginning and ending, 
like so many of our own parliaments, in a " quack." 
Hush ! Now to steal on them slowly with muffled 
oars. Some, the older birds, will rise, but surely out 
of all that mighty gathering a few will be our own ! 

As we approach, the geese retreat — they have 
spied UB already, and wish to give us a wide berth. 
Two or three have risen, and winged right over the 
hill. Never mind ! push forward. So swiftly do they 
Bwim, that the boat does not gain a foot upon them, 
but they cannot pass beyond the head of the loch up 
yonder, half a mile away, and there, at least, we shall 
come upon them. Ilark ! they are whispering ex- 
citedly together, and the result of the conference is 
that they divide into two great parties, one making 
toward a passage between some islands to the left, 
the other keeping its straight course up the mere. 
Conscious of some deep-laid scheme to baulk us, we 


follow the band tliat keep straight forward — forty 
ganders, geese, and goslings, flying swiftly for life. 
Faster! faster! we are gaining on them, and by the 
time they reach that promontory, we may fire. Now 
they arc beginning to scatter, some diving out of 
sight, and many rising high on wing to fly round the 
land. They have rounded the proiacmtory, doubtless 
into some secret bay — not a bird isTisible. Yes, one I 
For a miracle, he is swimming straight this way. His 
dusky plumage and crestless head prove him a juve- 
nile ; and surely nature, when she sent him into this 
world of slayers and slain, denied him the due propor- 
tion of goose's brains. Is he mad, or blind, or does 
he want to fight? He is only fifty yards away, and 
rising erect in the water, he flaps the water from his 
short wings and gazes about him with total unconcern. 
A moment afterward, and he is a dead gander. 

Not a moment is to be lost ; quick — ^round the 
promontory— or the flock will be heaven knows 
where. Too late ! Not a bird is to be seen. "VVe 
are close to the head of the loch, with a full view of 
all the corners ; not a solitary feather. They can- 
not all be diving at the same time. Tet we can 
swear they did not rise on the wing ; had they done 
so, we could not have failed to perceive them. Two 
score geese suddenly invisible, swallowed up in an 
instant, without so much as a feather to show they 
once were ! Hamisli Shaw scratches his head, and 
the Wanderer feels awed ; both are quite unable to 
account for the mystery. 

You see, it is their first real Wild-Goose Day, and 
j^eing raw sportsmen, actually accumulating their 



knowledge bj pci*sonal experience, and utterly reject- 
ing the adventitious instruction of books, they are un- 
aware that the young wild-goose, when sore beset on 
the water, has a sly knack of creeping in to shore, and 
betaking himself for the time being to the shelter of 
tlio tliick heather, or the deep, grassy boghole. But 
now the mystery is clear ; for yonder is the last of the 
stragglers, running up the bank as fast as its legs can 
carry it, and disappearing among the grass above. 
Taliyho ! To shore, Schneider, and after it ! The dog 
plunges in, reaches the bank, and disappears in pur- 
suit. Rnmning the boat swiftly in to shore, we land 
and follow with the guns. Half running, half flying, 
screaming fiercely, speeds the goose, so fast that the 
dog scarcely gains on her, and making a short, sharp 
turn, rushes again to the water, plunges in, dives, and 
reappears out of gunshot. But his companions — 
where are they ? Gone, like the mist of the morning. 
Though we search every clump of heather, every peat- 
hole, every water-course, and though Schneider, seem- 
ing to smell goose at every step, is as keen as though 
she were hunting a rat in his hole, not a bird do we 
discover. Can they have penetrated into some sub- 
terranean cave, and there be quacking in security? 
Forty geese — vanished away ! By Jupiter, we have 
been befooled ! 

Somewhat tired, we rest for a time on the water- 
side. The mere is silent again, untroubled by the 
screaming birds or the murderous presence of man. 
A drift-mist is passing rapidly against the upper parts 
of the mountains yonder, and the crags look terrific 
through its sickly smoke, and the wind is getting 


lii"licr. Hark! la that distant tluinder? or is it the 
crumbling down of crags among the heights? It is 
neither. It is the hollow moan of the western ocean, 
beating in on tlie sands that lie beyond these deso- 
late flats. One feels neither very wise nor very grand, 
caught by such a voice in the wilderness, caught — 
hunting geese. Had it been a red deer, now, or an 
eagle, or even a seal, that w^e were pursuing ; but a 
goose — how harmonize it with the immensities ? Of 
course, it is merely association ; for, in point of fact, 
the wild-goose is a thoroughly noble bird, a silence- 
lover, a high soarer, an inhabitant of the lonely mere 
and desolate marsh, a proud haunter of the weedy 
footprints of the sea. 

Yes, the wind is rising. Dark clouds are driving 
up to westward, and the surface of the mere begins to 
whiten here and there with small, sharp waves. It 
looks like the beginning of a spindrift gale, but the 
weather is very deceptive in these latitudes, and it 
may mean nothing after all. It will be better, how- 
ever, to be making tracks over the hills. 

Up goes the lugsail, and we drive down the loch 
with frightful speed. Down with it ; for the water 
is sown with rocks, and if we touch a stone while 
going at that speed, the punt's side wiU be driven into 
splinters. We fly fast enough now, without sail or oar. 
Ha ! yonder are the geese round that point, all gath- 
ered together again, and, doubtless, conversing ex- 
citedly about their recent terrific adventures. Before 
they can scatter much, we have rounded the point and 
are down upon them. Bang goes Big Benjamin! 
Bang! bang! goes the double-barrel. Four fine 


young birds are secured, two of them due to Ben the 
monster. We have just dragged them into the boat, 
when the rain begins to come down, while the wind 
is still flogging the water with pitiless blows. 

And 80, wet and weary, we drew up the punt in a 
sheltered creek, and turned her over. Hard by were 
some rude huts, built of peat turfs and wood — the 
summer abodes, or shielings, of the shepherds, who 
bring their flocks over here for the pasture ; and in 
one of these we left our oars, mast, sail, and other ar- 
ticles. Then shouldering our spoil, we put our backs 
to the wind and rain, and dashed along, through bog 
and over ditch, till we arrived at the shepherd's hut 
on the side of Loch Huport. 

There, on the threshold, greeting us with a smile, 
was a Highland lass, in the clean short-gown and col- 
ored petticoat, with hair snooded carefully and bare 
feet as white as alabaster. She was, without doubt, 
the sweetest maiden that we had yet met in our 
Iliffhland rambles. Like her of whom Wordsworth 

Fung — 

" A very sliower 
Of beauty was her earthly dower ;" 

and it was ghostly beauty, the spiritual sweetening 
the earthly. The features were not faultless ; the nose 
was perhaps a little inclined to heaven, but the eyes I 
What depth they had ? What limpid serenity and 
far-searcliing thought ! They were sorrowful eyes — 
had doubtless been washed with many tears. What 
struck us most about this creature was her strange 
whiteness and purity — her linen was literally like 
snow, her face was pale, her bai-e arms and legs were 


like marble — it was cleanliness almost oppressive, 
giving to her a wild, fantastic influence, finely in 
keeping with those eerie- wilds. If an artist could 
have seen this maiden, painted her in her habit as she 
lived, and written beneath, " Bonnie Kilmeny," he 
would have been hailed as a great ideal painter. 
Janue Hogg would have screamed and run, at seeing 
tlie heroine of his superb poem so incarnated, so sent 
to grace the wilds with witch-beauty : 

" Als still was her luke, and als still was her ee, 
Als the stillness that lay on the emeraut lee. 
Or thi! mist that sleips on a waveless sea. . . . 
And oh . her beauty was fayir to see, 
But still and steadfast was her ee !" 

Yet we just now called her a maiden. Maid she 
was none, as we afterward discovered, but a mother — 
the shepherd's daughter-in-law. Whence, then, that 
maiden whiteness, so coldly spiritual ? that alabaster 
body, so " purified from child-bed taint ?" They 
were not of this earth ; the woman's soul, like Kil- 
meny's, was in the " land of thocht," and morning and 
even was washing the body clean in the delicate dews 
of dream. 

Unfortunately, Kilmeny, as we mean to call her till 
the world's end, " had no English," and Hamish Shaw 
had to intei-pret for her pensive lips ; but, after all, 
those deep eyes needed no interpreters; they told 
their own strange tale. It was very commonplace, of 
course — would we have some milk? and had we had 
good sport ? and was the Wanderer an Englishman ? 
and whence had the yacht come ? But the wi'etched 
but, the tbick peat-smoke — nay, even tbe ragged 


urchin in the corner — could not shake us out of a 
dream, such power liad one exquisitely expressive face 
in startling thewajworn spirit and making it tremble. 
There was a message of some sort, a sudden light out 
of another world — what message, what light ? was an- 
other question — but it was beautiful ! 

" She met me, stranger, upon life's rough way, 
And lured me toward sweet death, as night by day 
Winter by spring, or sorrow by sweet hope 
Led into life, light, peace. An antelope. 
In the suspended impulse of its lightness. 
Were less ethereally light ; the brightness 
Of her divinest presence trembles through 
Her limbs, as underneath a cloud of dew 
Embodied in the windless heaven of June, 
Amid the splendor-winged stars, the moon 
Burns inextinguishably beautiful." 

Yes, that was it ; she " lured toward sweet death." 
When the Wanderer thinks of her now, it is often 
with a cold chill — as of one laid out, in a snowy 
winding-sheet, prinked with white lilies from the 
lochans. It is only a fancy, but the eyes still haunt 
him. Perhaps the woman is dead. 

" Who is the goose now ?" we hear the reader ex- 
claim ; and perhaps he is right. It was, at all events, 
a strange ending to our Wild-Goose Day. The shep- 
herd, with some difficulty, for the wind was high, 
rowed us in his clumsy skiff to the yacht, where wc 
soon turned in, and dreamed about Kilmeny. 

Two wild days of rain and wind had to pass away 
ere we could get across to Loch Phlogibeg for the 
punt. At last, however, we went over, shot a few 
moor- geese, and brought the punt back through a 


drenching mist. It only remains to bo added that, 
with the assistance of Schneider and the hawk, wa ate 
np every goose we slew, and if we had had sometlimg 
to swallow with tlie same, even a crust of bread or a 
biscuit, would have found the flesh delicious. But 
man cannot live on goose alone, however young, how- 
ever tender. How did we crave a scrap of bread, and 
a drop of whisky, or tea to wash it down ! % 

Though we had goose galore, and eggs, and milk, 
that was all Loch Iluport could do for us ; and, really, 
it might have been much worse, and we were un- 
grateful beings to crouch frowningly and mutter 
about starvation. Hamish Shaw was the bitterest, 
for he was out of tobacco, and to him, as to many 
another water-dog, life without tobacco was accursed 
torture. He had tried tea, till that was quite ex- 
hausted. Then he attempted a slice of boot-leather, 
and rather liked it — only, if he had persisted in 
smoking that kind of stufl", he would soon have had 
to go barefoot. The Wanderer recommended ^;^ffi, 
but the idea was rejected with indignation. 

Just as the weather was beofinnins: to clear, a larjije 
ship put into the loch, for a rest after weeks of bad 
weather, and by boarding her we procured a few 
supplies — a little tea, some tobacco, and a number of 
weeviled biscuits. Now, the presence of a large 
A^essel acts like magic in a solitary place. No sooner 
had the ship' entered the loch than the region, 
which had previously seemed uninhabited, became 
suddenly populous, and numerous skiffs rowed out 
laden with natives. The skipper did what the 
Yankees would call a " smart " thing with the 


natives on that occasion. Having need of hands to 
get in his anchors, wliich had dragged, he paid them 
off in biscuits of the finest quality, telling them to 
return next day, and (if they pleased) he would take 
in exchange for biscuits any quantity of dried fish 
they liked to bring. The natives were of course de- 
lighted, and the skipper secured a splendid lot of fish 
for the southern market. But conceive the disgust of 
the poor deluded Celts on examining their prize of 
dearl^'-coveted bread — for the biscuits were full of 
weevils, and worth scarcely a penny a pound. 

" All this far you have been digressing ! " cries the 
impatient reader. " We have heard more than we 
want to hear about ducks and geese, and hunger and 
thirst; but what of the red deer, the eagle, the 
sdmon, the hooper, the seal ? " Well, as to -the red 
deer, we may or may not have been the death of many 
a forest king — their antlers may or may not be hang- 
ing over the chimney-piece in our smoking-room — 
but we did not get so much as a glimpse of a deer in 
the wilds of the Long Island. The salmon had not yet 
ascended the rivers, and the wild swans were rearing: 
that year's young in the distant north. More than one 
eagle we beheld, floating among the mountain peaks 
on the eastern coast, and dwarfed by distance to the 
size of a wind-hover; but mighty would have 
been the hunter who could reach and slay the sky- 
loving birds in their glory. Indeed Yew have ever 
killed an eagle in its full pride of strength and flight. 
It is the sickly, half-starved, feeble bird that inad- 
vertently crosses the shepherd's gun, and yields a 
lean and unwholesome body to the. stuffer's arts. 


Such ail one we buw low down on the crags of Ben 
Eval, passing with a great heavy heat of the wing 
from rock to rock, now hovering for an instant over 
some ohject among the heather, then rising painfully 
and drifting along on the wind. We had no gun 
with us that day, or we think that, hy cautiously 
stalking among the heights, we might have made 
the bird our own ; and, indeed, our hearts were sad 
for the great bird, with that fierce hunger tearing at 
his heart, while, doubtless, the yellow eyes burnt 
terribly through the gathering films of death. Out 
of the hollow crags gathered six ravens, rushing with 
hoarse shrieks at the fallen king, and turning away 
-with horrible yells whenever he turned towards them 
with sharp talon and opened beak ; attracted by the 
noise, flocked from all the surrounding pastures the 
hideous hooded crows, with their sick gray coats and 
sable heads, cawing like devils ; and these, too, rushed 
at the eagle, to be beaten back by one wave of the 
wrathful wings. It was a sad scene — power eclipsed 
on the very throne of its glory, taunted and abused by 

" Sick in the world's regard, wretched and low," 

yet preserving the mournful sliadows of its dignity 
and kingly glory. Every movement of the eagle 
was still kingly, nor did he deign to utter a sound ; 
while the crows' and ravens were detestable in every 
gesture — mean, groveling, and unwieldy^ — and their 
cruel cries made the echoes hideous. Round the 
shoulder of the hill floated the king, with the 
imps of darkness at his back. We fear his day of 


death, so nii2;li at Land, wa-i to be very sad. Better 
that the passhig sliepherd should put a bullet through 
his heart and carry him away to deck some gentle- 
man's hall, than that he should fall spent yonder, in- 
sulted at his last gasp, torn at by the fiends, seeing 
the leering raven whet his beak for slaughter, and 
the corby perched close by, eager to pick out the 
golden and beautiful eyes. 

" By too severe a fate, 
Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen, 
Fallen from his high, estate, 

And welt'ring in his blood ; 
On the bare earth exposed he lies. 
With not a friend to close his eyes." 

"VVe were not loathe to see him go. It would have 
required a hard heart to take advantage of him, in 
the last forlorn moments of his reign. 

Just as he passed away, there started out from the 
side of a rock a ghastly apparition, glaring at us with 
a face covered with blood, and looking as if it meant 
murder. It was only a sheep, and for the moment it 
amazed us, for it seemed like the ghost of a sheep, 
horrid and forbidding. Alas ! though it glared in 
our direction, it could not see ; its poor, gentle eyes 
had just been destroyed, the red blood from them was 
coursing down its cheeks ; and it was staggering, 
drunken with the pain. It was the victim of the 
hoody or the raven, ever on the watch for the unwary, 
ready in a moment to dart down on the sleeping 
lamb or the rolling sheep, and make a meal of its 
eyes ; then, with devilish chuckle, to track the blind 
and tottering victim hither and thither, as it feels it.s 


feeble way ainon<!j tho lieights, until, standing on the 
edge of some high rock, it can be startled, with a 
wild beat of the wings and a hoarse shriek, right 
down the fatal precipice to the rocks beneath ; and 
there the murderer, while a dozen others of his kind 
gather around him in carnival, croaks out a discordant 
grace, and plunges his reeking beak into the victim's 

Though we slew a raven and a half a dozen corbies, 
having after that night sworn a savage vendetta 
against the murderous kind, no eagle died by our hand ; 
neither eagle, nor red deer, nor hooper, nor salmon. 
So far the search for the hunter's badge in Ultima 
Thule was a wretched failure, ending only in humilia- 
tion and despair. But we have at least taken one 
step in the right direction ; for we can avow, by 
Diana and by Nimrod, or (if the reader likes it 
better) by the less classic shade of Colonel Hawker, 
that we killed a seal, and did so under circumstances 
which may, we fancy, be quite as well worth relat- 
ing as any other sporting matter recorded in these 

It was up among the fjords of Maddy that the seal 
began to attract our attention. They were floating 
about in considerable numbers, coming quite close to 
the yacht at times, but always keeping well aloof 
whenever there was the slightest smell of powder. So 
one day the punt was got ready. Big Benjamin and 
the rifle put on board, and the Wanderer and hia 
henchman started off" up the fjords. 

There was a stifi" breeze from the east, and the little 
boat shot swiftly with the lugsail through the island 


waters. Every now and then the head of a seal 
popped up out of gunshot, floated for some minutes 
exactly like an oscillating leather bottle, and then 
was drawn slowly out of sight — still like a bottle, with 
the neck (or snout) upwards. The creeks were full of 
female eider and gool -ducks, each female followed by 
five or six fluffs of down in various stages of develop- 
ment ; and on one headland, which smelt as strongly 
of stale fish as a lierring-boat, a whole covey of 
cormorants, sitting bolt upright, like parsons in black 
coats and dingy neckcloths, were basking in the 
sunlight. The sea-larks twittered everywhere, the 
oyster-catchers whistled, the curlews screamed ; and 
the gulls, scattered all around as thick as snowflakes, 
completed the chorus with their constant cries. 
There was a rocky point, well up the principal 
fjord, which we had ascertained to be a constant 
resort of the seals, and on which, only the day before, 
an eye-witness had seen no less than forty, old and 
young, taking their noonday siesta all at once. To- 
ward this point we ran with the fresh breeze, not 
firing a shot on the passage, but watching warily 
ahead ; and at last, when in full view of the rocks 
and about a quarter of a mile distant, we liauled 
down the lugsail and " lay to " reconnoitering. Ilamish 
Shaw's quick eye discovered seals at once, and the 
telescope soon showed that he was right. There they 
were, three or four at least in number, sunning 
themselves snugly on the very outermost rocks of the 
promontory, ready, on the slightest alarm, to slipHko 
eels into the water. What was to be done ? Shoot- 
ing them from the boat was impos=ibV : a nearer 


approach on the water would soon scatter them to 
tlie deeps. However, by careful stalking, a good shot 
miffht be had from the land. About a hundred 
yards behind tlie siesta, rise knolls of deep grass, in- 
termingled with great boulders, and among these 
there must be many a capital point of vantage. Luck- 
ily, the knolls were well to leeward of the seals, and 
there was no chance of the wind playing traitor. Be 
it noted, that a seal, although not particularly sharp- 
sighted, has as fine a nose as a stag for any foul 
scent — such as that exuded, as Dean Swift vowed 
and as delicate monsters know, by the murderous 
monster man. 

Leaving Ilamish in charge of the punt, the Wan- 
derer shouldered the rifle and made a long detour 
inland, not venturing to turn his face until he was 
well to leeward of his quarry. Then, strapping 
the rifle on his back in backwoodsman fashion, and 
throwing himself down on his hands and knees, he 
began crawling slowly toward the hidden point. 
Ah, my Grub Street friends, how little do ye think 
of the discomforts of the wilds ! The ground was 
squashy as a sponge, and full of horrible orifices, 
where the black rain-water gathered and grew stag- 
nant. The Wanderer's knees were soon soaking, and 
ever and anon he plunged up to the elbows in a 
puddle, treacherously covered vritli green. I3e sure 
lie muttered no blessings Again and again he was 
on the point of rising erect, but was checked by the 
reflection that it was now impossible to mend matters, 
and that so much might be achieved by pushing on. 

He was soon close to the knolls, which, instead of 


affording such good cover as he had anticipated, lay 
pretty well exposed to the view of the black gentle- 
men on the promontory. Ila ! there they were, 
their tails cocked up in the air like a Yankee's legs, 
but resting on nothing. It was immediately quite 
clear that, to get within shot of all or any of them, 
the Wanderer must learn something from his ancient 
enemy, the snake, and do the rest of the stalking on 
his stomach. 

Did you ever try to perform this feat — to lie straight 
down on your face, keep your whole body and legs 
stiff, and wriggle yourself forward with your ell)ows 
and breast, just as you have seen the clown in the 
pantomime when he has designs on the pasteboard 
leg of mutton in the flat ? If you are fat, don't 
attempt it ; it is fatiguing if you are lean. But add 
to the difficulties of the feat the inconveniences of 
doing it in a ])lace as wet as a sponge, and thereby 
drenching your whole person with the green water 
of the damp morass, and you have some idea of the 
Wanderer's situation. N^othing daunted, however, he 
oozed — literally oozed — through the long grass, 
brushing the dirt with a dip of his nose, and glaring 
through his spectacles at the prey. Satan himself 
could not have manas-ed better. The Wanderer had 
his reward, for the seals, unsuspicious of danger, 
remained as motionless as stones. 

Five were visible — three very large, two smaller — 
all seated less than a hundred yards away. Creeping 
behind a large rock, which afforded a tolerable rest 
for the rifle, the Wanderer breathed a space, for he 
was quite exhausted witli his labor, and then pre- 


pared to fire, lie trembled very much, partly witli 
fatigue, partly with teiTor, lest he might miss ; but 
getting two in line, and aiming as steadily as liis 
nerves would allow, he pulled the trigger. A sharp 
crack, and all was over. The smoke curled up from 
the muzzle of the gun, and for a minute he thought 
that he had missed. But no ! all the monsters had 
disappeared but one, whicli was floundering w^ildly 
among the rocks, and making for the sea. The 
AVandcrer ruslied down, ready to finisli the work 
with the butt end of his rifle, but before lie could 
reach the spot the seal had plunged into the sea. 
Forgetting, in his excitement, to load again, he saw it 
rise and sink with short, painful dives, and, at last, 
with a deep breatli, it turned over on its back, 
floundered, and sank in the bubbles of its own 
dying breath. By the time that Hamish came 
round with the punt no seal was there ; and, indeed, 
the rascal seemed to receive with a look of in- 
credulity the news that any one had even been hit 
at all. lie rowed over the spot indicated, looking 
do\vn for the white gleam of the seal's belly, but the 
water was very deep, and the slahi one was lost 
beyond all hope of recovery. 

That, reader, was the seal we slew. We certainly 
did not " ])ag " him, but wc nevertheless accredit our- 
selves with the glory of his death ; and no taunts of 
the ill-disposed shall make us change our opinion. 

Having cleared the state-lounge of its occupiers, 
and sought in vain for other loungers on shore, we 
detennined to drift about, in the hope of getting 
chance shots from the boat. The water was full of 


seals, and the black heads were still coming and 
going in all directions. Now, it was a fixed and de- 
termined superstition of Ilamish Shaw that the seal, 
heing fond of music, can often be lured within gun- 
shot by whistling ; and it was a pretty sight, finely 
illustrating the pleasures of the imagination, to see 
the Wanderer and his henchman, guns in hand, 
whistling softly to attract the attention of some black 
head oscillating out of range. Neither being very 
musical, but producing a sound like the grating 
described by Milton on 

" Scrannel pipes of wretched straw," 

their melody did not seem to have much efiect ; 
until suddenly, about fifty yards away, a gray old 
fellow popped his head through the water and 
stretched out his neck for a good stare in our direc- 
tion. Shaw continued softly whistling, and both 
took aim and fired. There was a great splash in the 
water, and the seal was gone. 

It is the opinion of a capital writer on field-sports, 
Mr. John Colquhoun of Bute, that " all swimming 
seals, if hit at all, are shot through the head, and 
immediately spread out on the surface, giving ample 
time to row up and seize a flipper," and that con- 
sequently all stories of seals shot swimming, and 
suddenly submerged in deep water, are at the best 
exceedingly doubtful. It does, indeed, seem reasonable 
to avow that only the head of a swimming seal can 
be hit, the head being the only part visible ; but the 
bullet may not necessarily reach the brain, and death 
may not be immediate. 


Thus ended, not gloriously, our sport in the 
Wilds. None of the great trophies were won, 
though keen had been the chase, but something 
better had been gained — the fresh se;ise of new life. 
Cold and exposure, damp and hunger, rain and wind, 
daily acted as tonics to exhausted nature ; and the 
Wanderov, who had swallowed enough iron to make 
a gun-barrel and enough strychnia to poison a 
boarding-school, was renewed like ^son by the 
rough process of nature herself. To the weary and 
exhausted, he recommends such a cure Avith con- 
fidence Fight with the elements from morn to 
night, fear neither cold nor wet, defy the elements — 
and the cure will come of itself. Nerve-exhaustion 
(nervousness is another thing, and means merely 
weak-mindedness) is the one thing that must not be 
coddled and humored. 

There is another question, however, raised by the 
benevolent — the cmelty of sport as blended with the 
sorrow of things that feel. Now, we are not among 
those enthusiasts who avouch that the fox and hare 
enjoy being hunted, and that nothing is more glori- 
ous to a red deer than being shot on the hillside ; 
and we will yield to no man in love for dumb 
things — we hold them so dear, and have so many of 
them around us, that we are laughed at by all our 
friends. Sport, be it granted, is a savage instinct, 
yet it is none the less a natural one. All true sports- 
men love animals better than men who do not love 
sport. Well, as to wild-shooting. It has, in our eyes, 
this grand recommendation — it combines a maximum 
of hard labor and skill with a minimum of slaughter; 



for, in the eyes of the wild-shooter, a prize is precious 
precisely in proportion to the difficulty of capture. 
Pheasant-shooting is like shooting in a hen-house; 
pai-tridge-shooting is mere murder of the innocents ; 
grouse-shooting is sometimes as bad ; all these have 
for their main object the filling of an enormous bag. 
But in -wild-shooting, not only are you forced to con- 
tend with mountainous difficulties, and taken into 
scenes of extraordinary excitement, but you are amply 
satisfied with little or nothing as a recompense. One 
precious ornithological prize is " bag " enough for a 
fortnight. You cannot help admitting that some of 
your feelings and deeds are savage, but you have the 
eatisfaction of knowing that the odds are always 
twenty to one against you, and that whatever you win 
is secured by a drudgery quite out of proportion to 
the value of the capture. 




EfiFects of Cruising on Yacht and Voyagers— Rc-croesing the Minch— 
Northwest Coast of Skye— Becalmed oif Loch Snizort— Midnight- 
Lights of Heaven and Ocean— Dawn— Columns of the North Coast— 
The Quirang— Scenerj' of the Northeast Coast— The Storr— rortreo 

Devious, yet persistent as a crow which flies weari- 
ly homeward against pitilessly beating rain and 
wind — now staggering along a good mile, now drift- 
ing backward, overcome by some blast of more than 
common fury — the little yacht made her way along 
the rock-sown coast of the Long Island. All the ele- 
ments seemed leagued against her, and we flitted 
along, from anchorage to anchorage, in a dense and 
rainy mist — literally, "darkness visible." Such a 
tiny, stubborn, desolate, rain-bedraggled, windstraw 
of a vessel never before ventured into so inhospitable 
a region ; for the wild sea-weed grew upon her and 
trailed around her in slimy masses ; her sails were 
torn by the sharp teeth of the wind ; her ropes rotted 
by the insidious and mildewy slime ; her once bright 
pennon was a rag — and altogether, but for the ex- 
quisitely delicate contour, which no dirt or raggedness 
could spoil, she might have been taken for some mis- 


erable wherry of the isles. But the whirlwind spared 
licr, the waves melted their wrath against her, and 
the beating rain only tightened her timber ; and, not 
to be daunted by damp, whirljiool, hurricane, or any 
other of the powere of that eerie region, she persisted in 
her cx])lorations as devotedly as any little lonely lady 
in "Wonderland. As for the voyagers, they had long 
since abandoned all attempts to look civilized. Their 
clothes hung upon them like those suits with which 
Jews tempt seafaring-men in Whitechapel. Hamisli 
Shaw's black, corkscrew ringlets were wildly matted 
togetlier, and his face was bristling all over. Even 
Schneider, the dog, looked disreputable ; for the salt 
water and sea air had taken all the gloss and curl out 
of her coat, and her poor eyes were closed up with a 
sort of influenza. Kot without pleasure, at last, did 
we turn homeward, leaving the Long Island to its 
loneliness and gloom. 

Our first intention had been to cruise along the 
coast of the Outer Hebrides as far as Stornoway ; but 
we had spent so much time in navigating the south- 
em parts of the Long Island that we paused at Loch 
Maddy, and, after spending a week in examining the 
surrounding ^ords and islands, thought it high time 
to recross the Minch It was now late in August, 
and the gales of wind were daily becoming more fre- 
quent in occurrence, longer-lasting, and stronger 
while they lasted. One morning, therefore, we left 
Loch Maddy, with a brisk breeze from the north, and, 
lying close to the wind, steered straight across the 
Minch, in the direction of the northern cliffs of Skye. 
Dim in distance, Skye loomed before us — the north- 


cm crags, the great lieights of Dunvegan, !Maclcod's 
Maidens, and the shadowy Cuchidlins — and far away 
eastward, the faint outline of the mainhind was trace- 
able for many a mile. The day was gray and dreamy, 
the wind steady as could be, the waves rising and 
falling with a deep, slumbrous murmur, most assuring 
to the mariner. One had nothing to do but steer the 
boat, and let her work her way lightly and steadily 
over the easy waters, as they broke in dark, foam- 
edged masses to the soutli. 

Although there seemed little perceptible speed on 
the vessel, she gained mile after mile swiftly enough, 
and the mouth of Loch Maddy, with its rocky islands, 
began rapidly to mingle with the gray line of sea, 
while Skye grew darker and darker as we approached, 
the sleepy masses of mist gathering on all its heights 
as far as eye could reach. 

Early in the afternoon, we passed Dmivegan Head, 
and then Vaternish Point; but by this time the 
breeze had grown very faint indeed, and when we were 
in the middle of the great mouth of Loch Snizort, the 
wind ceased altogether. For hours we rolled about 
on a most uncomfortable sea, till the sun sank far 
away across the Minch, touching with red light the 
hazy outline of the Long Island. Then, all in a mo- 
ment, as it were, the eyes of heaven opened, very dim 
and feeble, and the night — if night it could be 
called — came down with a chilly sprinkle of invisible 
dew. All round the yacht the sea burnt, flashed and 
murmured, lit up by innumerable lights. Wherever 
a wave broke there was a phosphorescent gleam. 
The punt astern floated in a patch as bright as moon- 


liglit ; and every time the counter of the yacht struck 
tlie water, the latter emitted a flush like sheet-light- 
ning. The whole sea was alive with millions of mir- 
aculous creatures, each with a tiny light to pilot him 
about the abysses. Here and there the medusa moved 
luminous, devouring the minute creatures that swarm- 
ed around it, terrible in its way as the Poulp that Vic- 
tor Hugo has caricatured so immortally ; * and other 
creatures of volition, to us nameless, passed mysteri- 
ously; while ever and anon a shoal of tiny sethe 
would dart to the surface, and hover in millions 
around the yacht. Though there was no moon, the 
waters and the sky seemed full of moonlight. The 
silence was profound, only broken by a dull, heavy 
sound at intervals — whales blowing off the headland 
of Dun vegan. 

Midnight, and no breeze came. The sky to the 
north unfolded like a flower blossoming, and the 
Northern Lights flitted up from the horizon, flashing 
like quicksilver, and filling the sight with a peculiar 
thrill of mesmeric sensation. Lights gleaming on the 
ocean, the eyes of heaven glittering, the Aurora flash- 
ing and fading — with all these the sense seemed over- 
bm-thened. Now and then, as if the pageant were 
incomplete, a star shot from its sphere, gleamed, and 

There was nothing for it but to roll about on the 
shinins; sea till the wind came. Leaving Ilamish at 
the helm, the Wanderer crept into the cabin, and was 
soon fast asleep, in spite of the lurching of the yacht. 

* " Les Travailleurs de la Mer." 


He was awakened by the familiar sound of the water 
rushing past a vessel under sail ; and, without open- 
ing his eyes, he knew that the yacht had got a 
breeze. Creeping out into the cockpit, he saw the 
waters quite black on every side ; darkness every- 
wliere, save where the first cold sparkle of day was be- 
ginning to peep above the far-off mountains of the 

"We were in luck ; for the breeze was from the 
northwest, and just enough for us to carry. When day 
broke, red and somber, we were off Ilunish Point, 
and saw on every side of us the basaltic columns of the 
coast flaming in the morning light, and behind us, in 
a dark hollow of a bay, the ruins of Duntulm Castle, 
gray and forlorn. The coast views here were beyond 
expression — magnificent. Tinted red with dawn, the 
fantastic cliffs formed themselves into shapes of the 
wildest beauty, rain-stained and purpled with shadow, 
and relieved at intervals by slopes of emerald, where 
the sheep crawled. The sea through which we ran 
was a vivid green, broken into thin lines of foam, and 
full of innumerable medusae, drifting southward with 
the tide. Leaving the green, sheep-covered island of 
Trody on our left, we slipt past Aird Point, and sped 
swift as a fish along the coast, until we reached the 
two small islands off the northern point of Loch Staf- 
fin — so named, like the island of Staffa, on account of 
its columnar ridires of coast. Here we beheld a si<rht 
which seemed the glorious fabric of a vision — a range 
of small heights, sloping from tlie deep green sea, 
every height crowned with a columnar clrff of basalt, 
and each rising over each, higlier and higher, till they 


ended in a cluster of towerincj columns minarets, and 
spires, over which hovered wreaths of delicate mist, 
suffused with the pink light from the east. AVe were 
looking on the spiral })illars of the Quirang. In a 
few minutes the vision had faded ; for the yacht was 
flying faster and faster, assisted a little too much by a 
savage puff from off the Quirang's great cliffs ; but 
other forms of beauty arose before us as we went. 
The whole coast from Aird Point to Portree forms a 
panorama of cliff-scenery quite unmatched in Scot- 
land. Layers of limestone dip into the sea, which 
washes them into horizontal forms, resembling gigan- 
tic slabs of white and gray masonry, rising, sometimes, 
fitair above stair, water-stained, and hung with many- 
colored weed ; and on these slabs stand the dark cliffs 
and spiral columns, towering into the air like the fret- 
work of some Gothic temple, roofless to the sky ; 
clustered sometimes together in black masses of eter- 
nal shadow ; torn open here and there, to show glimpses 
of shining lawns sown in the heart of the stone, or 
flashes of torrents, rushing in silver veins through the 
darkness; crowned in some places by a green patch, 
on which the goat feed, small as mice; and twisting 
frequently into towers of most fantastical device that 
lie dark and spectral against the gray background of 
the air. To our left, we could now behold the island 
of Rona, and the northern end of Paasay. All our 
faculties, however, were soon engaged in contemplat- 
ing the Storr, the highest part of the northern ridge 
of Skye, terminating in a mighty insulated rock or 
monolith, which points solitary to heaven, two thou- 
sand three hundred feet above the sea, while at its 


base, rock and crag have been torn into the wildest 
forms by the teeth of earthquake, and a great torrent 
leaps foaming into the sound. As we shot past, a 
dense white vapor enveloped the lower part of the 
Storr, and towel's, pyramids, turrets, monoliths were 
shooting out above it, like a supernatural city in the 

Weary and exhausted as we were, we gazed on pic" 
ture after picture with rapt eyes, looking little at Raas- 
ay, which was closing us in upon the left. At every 
hundred yards, the coast presented some new form of 
perfect loveliness. We were now in smooth water. 
The red dawn had grown into a dull-gray day, and 
the wind was coming so sharp off the land that we 
found it necessary to take in a reef. We had scarce- 
ly beaten into Portree, in the teeth of the most severe 
squalls, when the bad weather began in earnest, with 
some clouds from the northwest, charged like mighty 
artillery with wind and rain. Snug at our anchor- 
age, we smiled at the storm, and heartily congratulated 
ourselves that it had not caught us off the perilous 
heads of Skye. 

Portree is the capital of Skye, and, like all High- 
land capitals, is dreary beyond endurance, and with- 
out a single feature of interest. After lingering a day 
to rest our weary bodies, we left the harbor on a rath- 
er black-looking forenoon, with the intention of slip- 
ping down to Loch Sligachan, a distance of only some 
eight or nine miles, and of lying for a little time in 
the immediate neighborhood of the wonderful Cuchul- 
lins. The little Teryi had carried her mainsail nearly 
all the journey in the open, and now, for the first and 



second time, we lashed down the boom ana put on 
the "trysail" — just for the purpose of shifting com- 
fortably down to Sligachan. Fortunate for us, as the 
event proved, tliat we did so — for we left without a 
pilot, and were destined to be blown on somewhat 
sharply by the mighty Cuchullins. 

Tlie wind was ahead, and had fallen so much that 
the beating down was very slow work indeed ; and we 
had, therefore, full leisure to examine all the fine 
"glimpses" in the narrow sound — the mighty clifis of 
Skye, piled up above us on the starboard side, the un- 
dulating isle of Raasay to the left, the gigantic Storr 
astern, and Ben Glamaig rising darkly over the star- 
board bow. Xothing could be wilder and more fan- 
tastic than some of the shapes assumed by the Skye 
cliffs, nothing finer than some of their shadowy tints. 
Contrasted wdth them, Dun-Can, of Raasay, on the 
top of which the oracular Doctor and Boswell danced 
a jpas de deux, looked like a mere earthen sugar-loaf 
beaten flat at the top. All under Dun-Can stretched 
a brown and rocky country, pastoral and peaceful 
enough in parts, and having even green slopes and 
bright heathery glades, together with fine pieces of 
artificial woodland, through which glittered the water- 

" A silver pleasure in the heart of twilight ! " 

Strange looked the Storr behind us, rising solitary 
into the sky, with its satellite pinnacles and towers 
lying underneath in the dark-blue shade. 

Our eyes turned with most eagerness, however, to- 
ward Ben Glamaig, now scarcely visible in a thick, 



purple mist. Cloud after cloud was settling on liis sum- 
mit, sinkinfir lower and lower, to mantle him from fore- 
head to feet ; and the long, thread-like film of the fall- 
ing rain was drawn down his darkness with faint gleams 
of light ; yet the sea about us was quite quiet, and the 
wind was ominously still, llamish Shaw cocked his 
eye up at the giant in true sailor style, but delivered 
it as his judgment that " the day would be a fine day, 
tlio' we micht may-be liae a shoioe?' y " and llamish had 
reason on his side, for the giants of Skye sometimes look 
very threatening when they mean no harm, and very 
friendly when they are drawing a great breath into 
their rocky lungs, preparatory to blowing your boat 
to the bottom of the sea. 

Altogether, it was with not quite comfortable feel- 
in o-s that we drew nearer and nearer to the mouth of 
Sligachan. The place bore an ugly name — there waa 
dano-er above and danger under — rocks below and 
squalls above. Eight across the mouth of Loch Sliga- 
chan stretches a dangerous shoal, leaving only a pas- 
sable of a few yards, and to sail through this at all it is 
necessary to have the tide in your favor. Then, as 
you enter, you must look out for " Bo Sligachan " — a 
monster lying in wait, just under water, to scrunch 
your planks behind his weedy jaws. Then, again, be- 
ware of sq^iolls! Down the almost perpendicular 
sides of Ben Glamaig, down the beds of the torrents, 
inaudible till it has sprung shrieking upon you, comes 
the wind. Talk about wind ! Tou know nothing 
whatever on that subject, unless you have been in a 
boat among these mountains. Huge skifFs have been 
lifted out of sheltered nooks made expressly for their 



reception — ^lifted up, twirled rapidly in the air like 
straws, and smaslied to fragments in an instant. If a 
hen ventures to open her wings sometimes, up she 
goes in the air, whisks round and round for a moment, 
and comes down with the force of a bullet — dead. 
The mail-gig, which runs at the foot of Ben Glamaig, 
on a road well sheltered from the worst fury of the 
blast, has sometimes to stand to face the wind for 
minutes together, knowing that it would certainly be 
upset if the squalls caught it broadside. Not very 
long ago, a great schooner was capsized and foundered 
at anchor here, by a sudden gust, just because she 
happened to have one or two empty herring-barrels 
piled upon her deck. Next to Loch Scavaig, for fury 
of sudden squalls, comes Loch Sligachan. In the lat- 
ter you have only the breath of Glamaig, but at Sca- 
vaig, you must prepare for the combined blasts of all 
the Cuchullins — all the giants gathering together in the 
mist, and manifesting a fury to which Polypheme's 
passion against Ulysses was a trifle. 

But it was summer-time, and we anticipated noth- 
ing terrific, otherwise we should certainly not have 
ventured yonder in so frail and tiny a thing as the 
Tern. We had already falsified all the dire predic- 
tions which greeted us on setting forth, and followed 
us throughout our journey — we liad crossed and re- 
crossed the Minch, penetrated into the wild fjords of 
the Long Island, beaten round the northeast coast of 
Skye in the open sea — all in a poor little crank craft 
not seven tons burden, seven feet beam, rigged for 
racing, and intendedonly for river-sailing in very mild 
weather. Our good fortune, instead of turning our 


brains, had made lis more cautious than when we set 
forth. Many perils escaped liad explained to us the 
real danger of oiir attempt. We had certainly no an- 
ticipation of meeting in the narrows the fate which 
we liad escaped so often in the open sea. 

What with the slight wind, and the weary beating 
down the Sound, we did not sight Sconser Lodge, 
which lies just at the mouth of Loch Sligachan, until 
the sunset. By this time the clouds had somewhat 
cleared away about Glamaig, and glorious shafts of 
luminous silver were working wondrous chemistry 
among the dark mists. We put about close to 
Raasay House, a fine dwelling in the midst of well- 
cultivated land, and feasted our eyes with the 
f ntastic forms and colors of the Skye clifia to the 
westward, grouped together in the strange, wild 
illumination of a cloudy sunset ; domes, pinnacles, 
spires, rising with dark outline against the west, and 
flitting from shade to light, from light to shade, as 
the mist cleared away or darkened against the sink- 
ing sun ; with vivid patches between of dark -brown 
rocks and of green grass washed to glistening emerald 
by recent rain. It was a scene of strange beauty — 
Nature mimicking with unnatural perfection the 
mighty works of men, coloring all with the wildest 
hues of the imagination, and revealing beyond, at 
intervals, glimpses of other domes, pinnacles, and 
spires, flaming duskily in the sunset, and crumbling 
down, like the ruins of a burning city, one by one. 
What came into the mind just then was not Words- 
worth's sonnet on a similar cloudy pageant, but those 


wonderful stanzas of a wonderful poem by the same 
great ])oet on the eclipse of the sun in 1820 : 

" Awe-stricken she beholds the array 
That guards the temi)le night and day ; 
Angels she sees that might from heaven have flown, 
And virgin saints, who not in vain 
Have striven by purity to gain 
The beatific crown — 

" Sees long-drawn files, •concentric rings, 
Each narrowing above each ; the wings 
The iiplifted palms, the silent marble lipa, 
The starry zone of sovereign height — 
All steeped in the portentous light ! 
All suffering dim eclipse !" 

It is difficult to tell whj these lines should have 
arisen in our mind at that moment — for no stronger 
reason, perhaps, than that which caused the figures 
themselves to rise before "Wordsworth by the side of 
Lugano. He had once seen the Cathedral at Milan, 
and when the eclipse came, he could not help follow- 
ing it thither in imagination. These faint associations 
are the strangest things in life, and the sweetest 
things in song. Portentous light ! dim eclipse I 
These were the only words truly applicable to the 
scene we were gazing upon at that moment ; and 
those few words were the chain of the association — 
the magical charm linking sense and soul — bringing 
Milan to Skye, filling the sunset picture with the 
wings, uplifted palms, and 'silent lips of angels and 

virgm saints- 

All steeped in the portentous light t 
All suffering dim eclipse I" 


It was just as we were contemplating- tliis wonder 
that the water blackened to windward, and we wore 
laid over with the first squall from Glamaig. Wliat 
a screaming in the riggings ! what a rattling of dishes 
and buckets in the forecastle ! What a clutching at 
spars and ropes on deck ! It was gone in a moment, 
and the Tern dashed buoyantly forward. The wind 
had freshened suddenly, and we were bowling along 
at five or six miles an hour, carrying trysail, foresail, 
and the second jib, "We were still a good two miles 
from Sconser Lodge, so that the squalls, when they 
reached ns, had lost much of their force. Squall sec- 
ond was even softer than the first ; we laughed as it 
whizzed through the rigging, just putting the bul- 
warks under, and we were still further encouraged 
by a sudden brightening of the Ben. Fools! that 
brightening should not have beguiled us. Ilamish, 
who was at the helm, had just made the remark that 
he thought " the nicht would be a good nicht," and 
we were about half a mile off the mouth of Loch 
Sligachan, when squall iJdrd^ coming sheer down the 
sides of Glamaig, smote us like a thunderbolt, and with 
a terrific shriek laid the Tern clean upon her broadside. 
It was a trying moment ; the trysail trailed in the 
water, and the water, covering all the decks to leeward, 
poured in a light-green stream into the cockpit, and 
even through the hatches into the cabin. The cook 
screamed from below amid an awful clatter of rub- 
bish, and those on deck shivered and looked pale. 
" Off wi' the foresail !" screamed Ilamish ; and it was 
done in an instant. For a moment it seemed as if the 
little craft would never right, but slowly she emerged 


from her bath and was shaken up in the wind, shiver- 
ing like a half-drowned bird. All breathed hard af- 
ter the escape. After such a warning it was consid- 
ered advisable to exchange the big jib for the little 
storm one — which was done, and eased the boat very 

Well, it is useless to go on with further details of 
our entry into Sligachan. So determined did the 
wind seem to oppose our passage and give us a 
ducking, that once or twice we actually thought of 
turning tail and running back to Portree. But we 
persevered, even without a local pilot, and the tide 
being nearly full, we passed over sunken dangers 
with comparative safety. At the narrowest part of 
the passage we could see the bottom, and actually 
grazed it with our keel. But the winds were the 
worst. The anchorage was right at the foot of 
Glamaig, so that the nearer we drew the fiercer and 
more sudden were the squalls. The people gathered 
on shore, evidently expecting to see us get into 
trouble. To their astonishment, however, we shook 
the little Tern through every blast, righted and saved 
her at each moment of peril, and finally dropped an- 
chor safely before it was quite dark. How we should 
have fared on a really stormy day it is not difficult to 
guess. This was an ordinary evening, somewhat 
windy, but what the men of Sligachan called " good 
v/eather." So terrific^ however, is the suction of the 
hills beyond, and so sheer the descent of Glamaig to 
the water, that winds which are mild elsewhere bo- 
come furious here. Keep us from Sligachan after Oc- 


tobcr, when the soutliwester begins to conie witli its 
mighty rain-clouds ov(}r the sea ! 

While we are on the subject of squalls, we may 
complete our report against Ben Glaniaig by stating 
that on one occasion, during our stay in the loch, 
although we were only about two hundred yards 
from low-water mark, we could hold no communi- 
cation with the shore for a night and a day, and 
were all that time watching anxiously lest the TeDi's 
heavy mast should founder her at anchor. " Half a 
gale " of wind was blowing ; and with many of the 
squalls the boat, though perfectly bare of canvas, lay 
over so much as to ship water into the cockpit. The 
wind came straight off Glamaig, and though there 
was no " fetch " whatever, there was scarcely a dark 
spot between us and the shore — all was churned as 
white as snow. 

That night, shut up on board his little vessel, the 
Wanderer read again King Haco's Saga, and put 
it into new language for the English public. All 
through the voyage he had been thinking of Ilaco and 
his chiefs ; and how they had haunted that coast in 
their strange ships, leaving everywhere the traditions 
of their race. Skye still rings with tliem. Portree 
is still "the King's Harbor;" "Kyleakin " remains 
the " Passage of King Ilakon." How they fared 
among the perilous waters, is a tale worth telling, 
and most fittingly in the narrow inland sounds of 
Skye, where Haco the King and his invading fleet 
will never be forarotten. 

sou THE LAND 01'' LUiiNE. 




When Haco the King ruled over Norway, King; 
Alexander, son of William, sent from. Scotland in 
the Western Sea two bisho})S to King Ilaco, begging 
him to give up those lands in the Hebrides which 
King Magnus Barefoot had unjustly taken from King 
Malcolm. King Haco answered, that Magnus had 
settled with Malcolm what districts the Norwegians 
should have in Scotland, or in the islands which lie 
near it, adding, moreover, that the King of Scot- 
land had no rule in the Hebrides at the time 
when King Magnus won them from King Godfred, 
and also that King Magnus had only taken back 
hisbirthriglit. Tlien quoth the bishops, " Our master, 
the King of Scotland, would willingly purchase all the 
Hebrides, and we therefore entreat King Haco to 

* Wherever, in the following translation, I have used a modern 
Scotch word, such as" speired " (inquired), " harried " (plundered), 
"kirk" (church), " bairns "(children), it is to be understood that 
tlie modern word is the same in form, sound, and meaning as 
the original Icelandic. — K. B. 


value them in fine silver." But Ilaco liiughed, saj- 
iri<5 lie had no such lack of pence as to be compelled 
to sell his inheritance. With these words for an 
answer the bishops went their way. 

iSTow, from this cause there speedily arose great 
coldness between the kings ; yet, again and again, 
Alexander the Kino; sent fresh messenjjers with new 
offers. But when lie could not purchase those lands 
of King Haco, he took other measures in hand 
which were not princely. Collecting a host through- 
out all Scotland, he prepared for a voyage to the 
Hebrides, and vowed to win those islands under his 
dominion, vowing clear and loud before his subjects 
that he would not rest till he bad set his flag on the 
cliffs of Thurso, and had gained all the provinces 
which the Norwegian monarch possessed west of the 
German Ocean, 

In these days King Alexander sent word to John, 
Lord of the Isles, that he wished to speak with him. 
But King John would not meet the Scottish king 
till some earls of Scotland had pledged their honor 
that he should fare safely. When the king met 
the Scottish monarch he bade King John that he 
would give up Kiamaburgh into his power, and 
three other castles which he held of King Haco, 
as also the other lands which King Haco had given 
him. But John did well and uprightly, and said 
that he would not break his troth to King Haco. On 
this he went away^ and stopped not at any place till 
he came quite north to the Lewis. 

That smumer, Alexander, King of Scotland, then 


lying ill Kiararey Sound, dreamed a dream. He 
thouglit tliat three men came to him ; one of them 
was in royal robes, but very stem, ruddy in counte- 
nance, sliort and thick ; another was of slender 
make, but active, and of all men most majestic ; the 
third, again, was of a very great stature, but his 
features were wild and distorted, and he was un- 
sightly to look upon. Now, these three spoke to 
Alexander in his dream, and speired whether he 
meant to harry the isles of the Western Sea. 
Alexander answered that he certainly meant to 
win back the isles under his crown. Then those 
three 8i)irits bade him go back, and told him no other 
course would turn out to his good. The king told 
his dream, and many bade him to return. But the 
king would not, and a little after he fell sick and 
died. The Scottish army then broke up ; and they 
hare the king's body to Scotland. 

Now all men say that the three men whom the 
king saw in his sleep were — St. Olaf, King of Nor- 
way ; St. Magnus, Earl of Orkney ; and Columba, 
the Saint of Icolmkill. 



Then the Scottish people took for their king 
Alexander, the son of Alexander, who married the 
daughter of Henry, king of England, and became a 
raeikle prince. 

In the summer of 1262 there came to Haco, 
King of Norway, many letters from the kings of the 
Hebrides in the Western Seas, complaining sore of the 


ill-deeds of the Earl of Ross, Kiarnach, son 'of Mac- 
Camal, and other Scots. These same burned villaecori 
and kirks, and killed great numbers both of men and 
Avomen. They had. even taken the small bairns, and, 
raising them on the points of their s[)ears, shook them 
till they slipped down to their hands, when they threw 
them away, dead, on the ground. The letters said, 
also, that the Scottish king would win all the 
Hebrides if life was granted him. 

When King Ilaco heard these tidings they gave 
him much uneasiness, and he laid the case before his 
council. Then it was settled that King Haco should, 
in the ^vinter season about Yule, issue an edict 
through all Norway, and order out both troops and 
food for an expedition. He bade all his forces meet 
liim at Bergen early in spring. 

King Haco came to Bergen on Christmas. He 
dwelt there during the spring, and made ready 
swiftly for war. After that a great number of barons 
and officers, and vassals, and a vast many soldiers 
came in daily unto him. 

King Haco held a general council near Bergen, at 
Backa. There the meikle host came together. The 
king then cried that this host was to be sent against 
Scotland, in the Western Seas. 

During this voyage King Haco had that great ves- 
sel which he had bade them build at Bergen. It was 
built all of oak, and had twenty banks of oai-s. It 
was decked with beads and necks of dragons beauti- 
fully overlaid with gold. He had also many other 
well-found ships. 

In the spring, King Haco sent John Langlifeson 


and Henry iS(30tt west to the Orkneys, to get pilots for 
Scotland. From thence John sailed to the Hebrides, 
and told King Dugal that he might expect an army 
from the east. Word had got abroad that the Scots 
would harry in the islands that summer. King Dugal 
therefore spread a report that forty ships were coming 
from Norway. Some time before the king himself 
was ready he sent eight ships to the westward. The 
captains of these were Ronald Urka, Erling Ivarson, 
Andrew Nicholson, and Halvard Red. 

"When the king had built his ship, he went with 
all his host from the capital to Eidvags ; afterwards 
he himself hied back to the city, and dwelt there 
some nights, and then set out for llerlover. Here 
came together all the troops, both from the north and 
the south. 

King Haco lay with all his force at Herlover ; it 
was a mighty and glorious host. 

Three nights before the Selian vigils King Haco 
set sail for the German Sea with all his fleet. He 
had now been King of Norway six and forty wintere. 
He had a good breeze, the weather was fair, and the 
fleet beautiful to behold sailing southward to the 
islands of the Western Sea. 



King Haco had a company chosen well for his own 
ship. There were, on the quarter-deck, Thorlife, 
Abbot of Holm, Sir Askatin, four priests, chaplains 
to the king, Andrew of Thissisey, Aslac Guss, the 


king's master of the horse, Andrew Ilawardson, 
(lUtliorm Gillason and Tlioi-stein his brother, Eirek 
Scot Gautson, with many others. There were on tlie 
main-dock : Ashick Dagson, Steinar Ilcrka, Kloniit 
Langi, Andrew (Uims, Eirek Dugalson, the father of 
King Dugal, Einar Lang-Bard, Arnhjorn Suela, Sig- 
vat Bodvarson, Iloskukl Oddson, John Iloglif, Arni 
Stinkar, On the fore-deck there were : Sigurd, the 
son of Ivar Rofu, Ivar Helgason of Lofloc, Erland 
Scolbein, Dag of Southeim, Briniolf Johnson, Gudleik 
Sneis, and most of the king's chamberlains, with 
Andrew Blytt, tlie king's treasurer. There were in 
the forecastle: Eirek Skifa, Thornfin Sigvald, Kari 
Endridson, Gudbrand Johnson, and many of the cup- 
bearers. There were four men on every half rower's 
seat. With King Haco, Magnus, Earl of Orkney, 
left Bergen, and the king gave him a good galley. 
These barons were also with the king : Briniolf John- 
son, Fin Gautson, Erling Alfson, Erlend Red, J5ard of 
Hestby, Eilif of Naustadale, Andrew Pott, and Og- 
mund Krekedants. Erling Ivarson, John Drotning, 
Gaut of Meli, and Nicholas of Giska, were behind 
with Prince Magnus at Bergen, as were several other 
officers who had not been ready. 

King Haco, having got a gentle breeze, was two 
nights at sea, when he reached the harbor of Shet- 
land, called Breydeyiar Sound, and from thence he 
sailed to Ponaldsvo with all his host. 

While King Haco lay in Ronaldsvo, a great dark- 
ness drew over the sun, so that only a little ring 
was bright around ; and it continued so for some 




On the day of St. Laurence's wake, Kins; Haco, 
after a cruise in the Orkneys, sailed with all his forces 
to a haven that is called Ilasleviarvic, from that 
to Lewis, so on to Raasa, and from thence to that 
place in Skye Sound which is called Calliach Stone. 
Here he was joined by Magnus, King of Man, 
and by Erling Ivarson, Andrew Nicholson, and 
Hal ward. He next sailed south to the Sound of 
Mull, and then to Kiararey, where King Dugal 
and the other Hebrideans were assembled with their 

King Haco had now more than one hundred ves- 
sels, for the most part large, and all of them well 
prepared both with men and weapons. While he 
abode at Kiararey he sent fifty ships south to the 
Mull of Kintire to harry. The captains of the same 
were King Dugal, Magnus, King of Man, Bruniolf, 
Johnson, Ronald Urka, Andrew Pott, Ogmund 
Krekedants, Yigleic Priestson. He sent, also, five 
ships for Bute under Erling Red, Andrew Nicholson, 
Simon Stntt, Ivar Ungi Eyfari, and Gutthorm the 

Then did Haco the King sail south to Gudey before 
Kintire, where he anchored. There he met John, 
Kinir of the Isles, whom Kinjr Haco in vain be- 
sought to follow him. l^ut King John said he was 
pledged to the Scottish king, of whom he held more 
lands than of King Haco. He, therefore, entreated 
King Haco to dispose of all those estates which he 


had conferred upon him. King Ilaco kept h'nn witli 
him some time, vainly trying to win him back to his 

During King Ilaco's stay at Gudey, an abbot of 
Greymonks came to him, bidding him spare their 
cloister and Holy Kirk. The king granted them this, 
and gave them his own promise in writing. 

Friar Simon had long lain sick, and he had died at 
Gudey. His corpse was carried to Kintire and bm*ied 
in the Greymonks cloister. They spread a fringed 
pall over his grave and called him Saint. 

In those days came men from King Dugal, and 
said that the lords of Kintire and others would 
surrender their lands to King Haco, and follow with 
their clansm.en under his banner. Then the king 
said that he would not harry their lands if they 
yielded the next day ; ere noon they took an oath to 
King Haco and gave hostages. The king laid a 
fine of a thousand herd of cattle on their estates. 
Thereu]3on Angus yielded up Isla also to the king, 
and the king granted it back unto him as liegeman 
to ]S"orway. 

Soon after this the king sailed south along Kintire 
with all his fleet, and anchored in Arran Sound. 
Thither often came barefooted friars from the King 
of Scotland to King Haco, seeking peace. Here King ^ 
Haco freed his prisoner. King John, gave him many 
rich gifts, and bade him go in peace. Then did 
he swear to King Haco to labor at all times to make 
peace between him and the King of Scots. There- 
after King Haco sent Gilbert, Bishop of Hamer, 
Henry, Bishop of Orkney, Andrew Nicholson, 


Andrew Plytt, and Paul Soor to King Alexander, wlio 
met them honorably, and sent envoys to King Ilaco 
in his turn. Now King Ilaco had writ down all tho 
names of the Western Islands which he called his 
own, and King Alexander had named all those which 
he would not yield. These last were Bute, Arran, 
and the two Cumbras. But the Scots willfully held 
aloof from a settlement, because summer was ending 
and the foul weather was beginning. Seeing this, 
Ilaco the Kino; sailed in under the Cumbras with all 
his host. 

Thereafter King Haco sent as envoys a bishop and 
a baron, and to meet them came some knights and 
cloistermen. They spoke much, but could not agree, 
and late in the day so many Scots gathered together 
that the Norwegians feared treachery and drew away 
to their ships. Many now bade the king end the 
truce and harry, as food was scant. But Ilaco sent 
one Kolbein Kich to the King of Scots with peace 
letters, offering that the kings should meet, with all 
their host, and speak of peace. If peace, by God's 
grace, took place, it would be well ; but if not, then 
should the kings fight with their whole host, and let 
him win whom God pleased. The King of Scots was 
not loath to fight, but said little in answer. Kolbein 
went back to his master, and thereupon the truce was 



The king now sent sixty ships into Skipa-Fjord 
(Loch Long). Their commanders were Magnus, King 


of Man, King Dugal, and Allan his brother, Angus, 
Margad, A^iglcik Pricston, and Ivar Holm. "When 
they came to the head of the Fjord, they took their 
boats and drew them over the land to a great wa- 
ter which is called Loch Lomond. On the far side 
thereof yas a rich earldom called Lennox, and in the 
center were many islands, well peopled, whicli the 
Korthmen wasted with fire, destroying also all the 
buildings on the water side. 

Allan, brother of King Dugal, marched far into the 
land, slew many men and took many hundred head 
of cattle. Thereafter the Northmen went back to 
their ships. They met with so great a storm that ten 
of their ships were wrecked in the Fjord. It was 
now that Ivar Holm took that sickness of which he 

King Haco still lay in the open. Michaelmas 
happened on a Saturday, and on Monday night after 
there came a great tempest with hailstones and rain. 
The watch on the forecastle of the king's ship called 
out that a transport vessel was driving against their 
cable. The men leapt up on deck, but the rigging of 
the transport caught the prow of the king's ship and 
carried away its figure-head. The vessel then fell so 
foul aboard that its anchor grappled the ropes of the 
king's ship, which straight began to drag its anchor. 
Whereupon the king bade them cut the transport's 
cable, which being done, she drove out to sea. The 
king's ship now rode safe till daylight. In the morn- 
ing, at flood tide, the transport was cast ashore, 
together with a galley. The wind still rose, the 
king's men got more ropes and cast out a fifth 


anchor. The king himself rowed ashore in his boat 
to the isles and ordered mass to be sung. Meantime 
the ships dragged up the sound, and the storm was 
so fierce that some cut away their masts and others 
drove ashore. The king's ship still drove, though 
seven anchors had been cast out. They threw out an 
eighth, which was the sheet anchor. The ship still 
drove, but at last the anchors held fast. Five ships 
went ashore. So great was the storm that men said 
magic had done it, and the fall of rain was dreadful 

Now when the Scots saw that the vessels had 
driven ashore, they gathered together and approached 
the Northmen, and threw at them. But the North- 
men fought well and fiercely, sheltered by their ships ; 
the Scots made several attacks at intervals, killing 
few men, but wounding many. Then King Ilaco 
sent boats with men to help them. 

Lastly, the king, with Thorlaug Bosa, set sail for 
the shore in a barge. At his coming the Scots fled, 
and the Northmen passed the night ashore. But in 
the night the Scots entered the wrecked transport 
and bare off what they could. The morning after 
the king landed with many armed folk ; he ordered 
the vessel to be lightened and towed out to the fleet. 



A little after that they saw the Scots, and they 
thousrht the Ivini; of Scotland was there himself, 
because the host was so great. Ogmund Krekedants 


stood on a height, and his men with him. Tlic Scots 
attacked him with their van, and approached liim in 
so great force that the Korthmen begged the king to 
row out to his ships and to send them help. The 
king would stay on land, but they would not let him 
bide in such danger, and he rowed out in his boat to 
his fleet in the open sound. These barons abode 
ashore : Andrew Nicholson, Ogmund Krckedants, 
Erling Alfson, Andrew Pott, Ronald Urka, Thorlaug 
Bosi, and Paul Soor. All the fighting men with 
them on land were eight hundred or luore. Of those, 
two hundred were on the height with Ogmund, but 
the rest were gathered together on the beach. Then 
the Scots drew nigh, numbering near fifteen hundred 
knights ; their horses had all breast-plates, and many 
Spanish steeds were clad in mail. The Scots had 
also many soldiers on foot well weaponed, most of 
them with bows and spears. 

Kow the Northmen on the height drew back slowly 
toward the sea, thinking that the Scots might sur- 
round them. Andrew Nicholson then came up to 
the height, and bade Ogmund to back slowly to the 
beach, and not fly like routed men. The Scots there- 
upon attacked them fiercely with darts and stones. 
Many were the weapons showered on the Northmen, 
who defended themselves stoutly as they went. But 
when they came to the sea, all rushing swifter than 
they should, their fellows on the beach fancied they 
were routed ; wherefore some leaped into their 
boats, and rowed in them from shore, and others 
leaped into the transport. The soldiers called out to 
them to stay, and some few men returned. Andrew 


Pott leaped over two boats and into a third, and bo 
from land. Many boats sunk down, and some men 
were drowned. After that the Northmen on shore 
turned about towards the water. 

Here fell Ilaco of Steine, attendant of Ilaco the 
King. Then were the Norwegians driven south from 
the transport, and these were their leaders : Andrew 
Nicholson, Ogmund Krekedants, Thorlaug Bosi, and 
Paul Soor. Hard blows were dealt, and the foemen 
were ill-matched, for ten Scots fought against each 

There was a young knight of the Scots, named 
Ferash, and rich both in birth and gear. He had a 
helmet all gold, and set with precious stones, and his 
armor was also gold. He rode up to the Northmen, 
but none followed. He rode up to the Northmen, 
and then back to his own host. Then Andrew 
Nicholson came close to the ranks of the Scots. He 
met that brave knight and struck at him so fiercely 
that he cut through the armor into his thigh, and 
reached even to the saddle. The Northman took off 
his costly belt. Then began hard blows. Many fell 
on both sides, but most of the Scots, as Sturlas 

Bings : 

" Gathered in circle. 
With, clangor of armor 
Our youth struck the mighty 
Donners of armlets ; 
Limbs dead and bloody 
Glutted the death-birds. 
Who shall avenge now 
The mighty belt-wearer?" 


While this fight was raging, there was so great a 
storm, that King Haco saw no hope of landing liis 
host. Yet Ronald and Eilif of Naustadale rowed 
ashore with men and fought fiercely, together with 
those Northmen who had fled in their boats. Honald 
was driven back to his ships, but Eilif stood firm. 
The Northmen now ranged themselves anew, and 
the Scots took the height. There were constant 
fights with stones and darts ; but toward the end of 
day the Northmen rushed up against the Scots on tlie 
hill. The Scots then fled from the height, and betook 
themselves to their mountains. The Northmen then 
entered their boats, and rowed out to the fleet, and 
came safely through the storm. At morning they 
returned to land to look after those who had fallen. 
Among the dead were Haco of Steine and Thorgisl 
Gloppa, the king's housemen. 

There fell also a good bondsman from Drontheim, 
called Karlhoved, and another froiu Fiorde, called 
Ilalkel. Besides these there perished three Light- 
Swains,* Thorstein Bat, John Ballhoved, and Ilal- 
ward Buniard. The Northmen could not tell how 
many of the Scots fell, for their dead bodies were 
taken up and carried to the woods. Haco ordered his 
dead men to be carried to Holy Church. 



The fifth day after that the king took up his an- 
chor, and guided his ship close under the Cumbras. 

* Kerti-sveinar, Masters of tlie Lights. 


That day came unto liim tlie ships -which had sailed 
np Skipa-Fjord. The fast-day after it was good 
weather, and the king sent his vessels ashore, to burn 
the ships which had been wrecked ; and that same 
day, a little after, the king sailed past Cumbra out to 
JMelansey, and lay there several nights. Here came 
unto him the messengers he had sent to Ireland, and 
told ]iim that the Irish Northmen would support his 
host till he freed them from the rule of the English 
king. Haco longed much to sail to Ireland, but the 
wind was not fair, lie took counsel, and the whole 
host wished him not to sail. He said to them t]^at he 
would depart for the Hebrides, for the host was short 
of food. Then did Haco the King order the corse of 
Ivar Holm to be carried into Bute, and there it was 

After that the king sailed under Mclansey, and 
lay some nights under Arran, and then to Sandey, 
and so to the Mull of Kintire, and came close under 
Gudey. Then sailed he out to Ila Sound, and lay 
there two nights. He laid ^crj on the island in 
three hundred head of cattle, but some was paid in 
meal and cheese. Then Haco the Kino; sailed the 
first Sunday in winter, and met so mucli storm, witli 
wrack, that scarce a ship bore its sails. Then the 
king took haven in Kiararey, and there messengers 
went between him and King John, but to" little end. 
At this time the king was told that his men had liar- 
ried much in Mull, and slain some men of Midi, and 
that two or three Northmen had fallen. 

Next, King Haco sailed from the Calf of Mull, and 
lay there some nights. There he was left by King 


Dugald and Allan his brother ; and the king gave 
them those estates which King John had owned. 
Magnus, King of Man, and other Islesmen, had de- 
parted before. To Riidri he gave Bute, and Arran 
to Margad. To Dugald he gave the castle in Kintire, 
which Guthonn Backa-Rolf had taken in the summer. 
In this manner had Ilaco the King gained back all 
those lands which KinirMafrnus Barefoot had wrested 
from the Scots and the Islesmen. 

Haco the King sailed from the Calf of Mull to 
Rauney, and from Hauney northward. The wind 
blowing against him, he sailed into Wester-Fjord, in 
Skye, and levied food of Islesmen. He next sailed 
past Cape Wrath, and at Dvrness the weather fell 
calm, and the king let the ships be steered into Gia- 
Fjord. This was the Feast of the two Apostles, 
Simon and Jude, and the mass day was a Sunday. 
The king lay there for the night. On the mass day, 
after mass was sung, there came to him some Scots, 
whom the Northmen had taken. The king gave 
them liberty and sent them up the country, and made 
them promise to come back with cattle ; but one was 
left behind in hostage. That same day nine men of 
Andrew Biusa's ship went ashore for water, and a 
little while after a cry was heard from the land. The 
crew rowed to shore from the fleet, and saw two men 
f swimming, wounded sore, and took them aboard; but 
seven were slain on land, without arms, while their 
boat was aground. The Scots then fled to a wood, 
while the Northmen lifted their dead. On the Mon- 
day, King Ilaco sailed from Gia-Fjord, and gave lib- 
erty to the Scottish hostage, and set him ashore. That 



" niglit the king came to Orkney, and lay in a sound 
north from Asmnndsvo ; thence he sailed for Ro- 
naldsvo and most of his fleet with him. As they 
sailed over Pentland Fjord there rose a great whirl- 
pool, into which fell a ship of Rygia-fylke, and all 
men there were drowned. John of Hestby drove 
through the straits, and came near being wrecked in 
the gulf; but with God's grace the ship was forced 
east to the open sea, and lie hied to Norway. 

"VThile King Ilaco lay in Orkney most of his ships 
sailed to Norway, some with the king's leave, but 
many gave themselves leave. The king had said 
at first, when he came to the islands, that he would 
steer straight home ; but the wind was in his teeth, 
and he thouglit to Ijide in the Orkneys during the 
winter. He named twenty ships to stay, and gave the 
rest leave to go. All his vassals remained, save Eilif 
of Naustdale, who sailed eastward home; but many 
of the best men in tlie land abode with the kine:. 
Then the king sent letters to Norway, concerning the 
things he should need. After All Saints' mass the 
king sailed his ships to Medalland Harbor, but he 
spent one day at Ronaldsha. 



The Saturday ere Martinmas, King llaco rode out to 
Medalland's Harbor, and after mass lie fell very sick. 
At night he was aboard his ship, but at morning he 
let mass be sung on land. Afterward he held a 
council where the ship should lie, and bade his men 


look "well after their vessels. After that each slvipper 
took charge of his own ship. Some were laid up in 
MedallancVs Haven, and some in at Skalpeid. 

Next, King Ilaco went to Skali>eid and rode to 
Kirkwall, and there abode in the bishojj's palace with 
such men as dined at his board. Here the kinsr and 
the bishop kept each his board in the hall for his own 
men, but the king dined in the room above. Andrew 
Plytt looked after the king's table, and gave to each 
of the followers his share. After all that was ar- 
ranged, the divers skippers went where their ships 
were laid np. The barons in Kirkwall were Briniolf 
Johnson, Erling Alfson, Ronald Urka, Erling of Bir- 
key, John Drotning, and Erlend Red. The other 
barons were in their districts. 

King Ilaco had all the summer worked much and 
anxiously, and had slept little, and when he came to 
Kirkwall he lay sick in bed. When ho had lain some 
nights the sickness lessened, and he was on foot three 
days. The first day he walked in his rooms, the 
second he heard mass in the bishop's chapel, and the 
third day he went to Magnus Kirk and around the 
shrine of the holy Earl Magnus. He then ordered a 
bath and was shaven. Then, some nights after, he sick- 
ened again and lay again in bed. In his sickness he had 
read to him the Bible and Latin books. But finding 
he grew sad in thinking on these things, he had read 
to him night and day books of the North — first the 
lives of holy men, and when these were ended, tlie 
tales of our kings from Halden the Swart, and so of 
all the Northern kings, each after each. Haco the 
King found his sickness still increase. He thought, 


tlierefore, of tlie pay due to his troops, and ordered a 
mark of fine silver to each court-man, and half a 
mark to each of the light-swains and other followers. 
He let all the silver plate of his hoard he weighed, 
and ordered it to he given forth, if the realm-silver 
was too little. King Ilaco was shriven the night be- 
fore St. Lucia's mass. There were there Thorgisl, 
Bishop of Stavanger, Gilbert, Bishop of Ilamar, 
Henry, Bishop of Orkney, Abbot Thorleif, and many 
other learned men, and before he was smeared all said 
farewell to the king and kissed him. He still spake 
clear, and his favorites asked him if he had any other 
son besides Prince Magnus, or any other heirs who 
miirht share in the state. But he vowed that he had 
no other son and no daughter but what all men knew. 
Then were read the Sagas of the kings down to 
Suerer, and he ordered them to read the life of Suerer, 
and to read it night and day, as often as he was 



The mass day of St. Lucia was a Thursday, and on 
the Saturday after the king's sickness grew so great 
that he lost speech, and at midnight Almighty God 
called Kins: Haco out of this home's life. These 
barons beheld his death: Briniolf Johnson, Erliug 
Alfson, John Drotning, Ronald Urka, and some sei-v- 
inf men who had been near the king ifi his sickness. 
Directly after he died, bishops and learned men were 
sent for, and mass was sung. Then all the folk went 
torth, save Thorgisl the Bishop, Briniolf Johnson, and 


two otlicr men, who watched the body, and did all tlio 
service due to so mighty a lord and prince as was 
Ilaco the Kiny;. On Saturday, the corpse was carried 
into the hii2;h chamber, and set on a bier. The body 
was clad in rich raiment, and a garland set on his 
head ; and all bedight as became a crowned monarch. 
The light-swains stood with tapers, and the whole hall 
was lit. Then went all folk to see the body, and it 
was fair and blooming, and the face was fair in hue 
as in living men. There was great solace of the grief 
of all there to see their departed hing so richly dight. 
Then was suns: the hiirh mass for the dead. The 
nobles kept wake by the corpse through the night. On 
Monday, the body was borne to Magnus Kirk, and 
royally laid out that night. On Tuesday, it was laid 
in a kist, and buried in the choir of St. Magnus -Kirk, 
near the steps of the shrine of St. Magnus, the Earl. 
Afterward, the tomb was closed, and a pall spread 
over. Then was it settled that wake should be kept 
all winter over the grave. At Yule, the bishop and 
Andrew Plytt made feasts, as the king had ordered 
before he went, and good gifts were given to all the 

Now, King Haco had given orders that his corse 
should be carried east to I^orway, and he would be 
graved near his father and other kinsmen, and about 
the end of winter was launched that meikle ship 
which Haco the Kino; had in the west. On Ash Wed- 
nesday, the corse of the king was taken out of the 
earth ; this was on the third of the nones of March. 
The court-men then went with the corse to Skalpeid 
to the ship. The chief leaders of the ship were Thor- 


gisl, the bisliop, and Andrew Plytt. They sailed the 
first Saturday in Lent, and met hard weather, and an- 
chored south in Silavog. Thence they sent letters to 
Prince Marrnus, and told him the tidino-s. Afterward 
they sailed north to Bergen. They came to Silavog 
before the mass of St. Benedict. On mass-day, Prince 
Magnus met the corse. The ship was brought near 
the ting's palace, and the corse was placed in the sum- 
mer-hall. The morning after, it was borne out to 
Christ Kirk. There went with it Magnus the King, 
the two queens, and court-men and town folk. After 
that, the body was buried in the choir of Christ Kirk ; 
and Magnus the King spake to the folk with many 
good words. There stood all the folk in great grief, 
as Sturlas sings : 

" Three niglits came tlie miglity 
Warriors to Bergen, 
Ere in the earth-vale 
Lay the wise ruler. 
The pale weapon-breakers 
Stood gathered around him, 
Full weeping and joyless. 
(Meikle strife followed.)" 

Haco the King was buried three nights before the 
mass of Mary; this was after the birth of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, one thousand two hundred and sixty- 
three years. 




ScoDBor and Sligachan — Party and Guide — Dawn on the Cuchullins — 
Scuir-na-Gilleau — A Rhapsody on Geology — Fire and Ice — The Path 
along the Glen — Ilart-o'-Con-y — Ben Blaven — A Monologue on Ossian— 
Schneider and the Ked Deer— First Glimpse of the "Corryof the 
Water " — Lochan Dhu. 

The Cucliullin Hills are the Temple of Ossian, and 
the temple has two porches — Sligachan and Scavaig. 
Having now fairly halted on the threshold of one, we 
stood close to an enchanted world. Opposite our 
anchorage was the village of Sconser — a number of 
rude hovels scattered on the hillside, with many fine 
patches of green corn and potatoes, and bits of excel- 
lent pasture for the cows. A smack was at anchor 
close to us, skilFs were drawn up above high-water 
mark, and nets were drying everywhere on the beach ; 
and we soon ascertained that the herring were " up 
the loch." Right above us, as we have said, rose 
Ben Glamaig, towering to a desolate and barren cone, 
seamed everywhere with the beds of streams, and 
covered with the gray sand and loose rocks deposited 
in seasons of flood. At times this red mountain is 
a worthy neighbor of the Cuchullins, but at others, 
notably when the sun is very bright and the air very 


clear, it appears sufficiently common-place. Common- 
place is an adjective at no time applicable to Scuir- 
na-Gillean or Blaven ; tliese are magnificent in all 
weathers, no sunlight being able to rob tliem of 
the wildly beautiful outlines and lurid tints of the 

Situated at the head of the loch is Sligachan Inn, 
the cleanest, snuggest, cheapest little place of the 
sort in all the Highlands of Scotland. Here, on the 
morning after our arrival, we procured ponies and a 
guide, and preceded in ordinary tourist-fashion to 
make our way to the heart of the temple — to the 
melancholy lake of Corruisk, distant about nine 
miles from the head of Sligachan. Our party num- 
bered five, including the guide. Two were mounted, 
while the Wanderer and Hamish Shaw trudged on 
foot. The guide (a gloomy Gael of thirteen, as sturdy 
as a whin-bush, and about as communicative) led the 
way, uttering ever and anon an eldritch whistle much 
like the doleful scream of the curlew. Our way lay 
up Glen Sligachan, along a footway discernable only 
by the experienced eye ; and we had scarcely^ pro- 
ceeded a quarter of a mile from the inn, when the 
Cuchullins, in all their grandeur and desolation, began 
to gather upon us — 

" Taciti, soli, e sanza compagnia " — * 

their wild outlines showing in strange contrast to the 
conical Red Hills, so called from the ruddy hues of 
the syenite and porphyry of which they are com- 
posed. Chief of the Red Hills is Glamaig ; king of 

* " Inferno," cant, xxiii. 


tlie Cucliullins is Blaabliein" or Blaven. Down the 
round sides of Glamais; rolls the red dchris of irravel and 
sand, washed into dark lines by innumerable water- 
courses, and giving to the Ion el}' hill the aspect of a 
huge cone slowly moldering, rusting and decompos- 
ing, save where the deep heather gathers on its hollow 
flanks below. But Blaven, like all his brctliren, pre- 
serves the one dark liue of hypcrsthene, while his 
sides are torn into craggy gulfs and lurid caves, and 
his hooked forehead cuts" in sharp silhouette the gray 
and silent sky. The mountainous part of Skye con- 
sists of these two groups, so strangely contrasted in 
shape and color, so totally unlike in geological com- 
position,* The range of the Cucliullins is almost 
completely detached from that of the Eed Hills by 
the valley of Glen Sligachan. 

Our start was made soon after dawn, and as we 
entered the great glen the mists of morning still 
brooded like white smoke over the hills on either 
side, while far away eastward the clouds parted above 
the mountain-tops, and revealed a glimpse of heaven, 
green as the delicate outer leaves of the water-lily. 
The rain had fallen heavily during the night, and the 
dead stillness of the air was broken only by the low 
murmur of the streams and new-born runlets. Passing 
by a glassy pool of Sligachan Bum, we saw a young 
salmon leap glittering like gold two feet into the air, 
giving us therewith his prophecy of a still and 
windless day; and while Schneider the wayward, 

* See tlie admirable treatise on tlie " Geology of the Cucliulliu 
Hills," by Professor Forbes, of St. Andrew's, 


warm already in anticipation, plunged in for her 
morning bath, up rose the old cock-grouse from the 
margin of the pool, and fled, screaming his warning 
to the six or eight little "cheepers" which were 
following the old hen swiftly and furtively through 
tlie deep heather. The sun broke out on the burn, 
and it was full day. The damp rocks gleamed like 
silver, the heather glittered with innumerable gems. 
Not a member of the party but caught the glad 
contagion. The ponies pricked up their ears, and 
carried their riders more swiftly along the devious 
track. Schneider went raving mad with delight, and 
rushed around the party in dripping circles. The 
Wanderer leapt like a very hart for joy. Ilamish 
Shaw murmured a Gaelic ditty of love and gladness ; 
and the boy-guide answered with a blither scream. 

To the AYanderer, however, the path was as familiar 
as to the guide, for he had trod it many a time, both 
alone and in the best of company; and, indeed, his 
present rapture was far more allied to physical delight 
in the glorious dawn than to thorough perception of 
the beautiful scenes opening up around him. Such 
scenery — the scenery whose appeal is to the soul — 
does not startle suddenly ; its supreme effect is subtle 
and slow ; the first emotion in perceiving it some- 
times even is like disappointment. The Wanderer's 
mind, too, is like a well, profound, of course, but fed 
mysteriously ; slow, very slow, to gather in thouglits 
from the numberless veins and pores of communica- 
tion. He drank the dawn like an animal — like a 
ruminant cow, like a mountain-goat. He had 
scarcely a thought for the marvelous landscape. 


There was no more speculation in his eyes than in 
those of the guide. Meantime his lieart couhl only 
dance, his brain only spin, his eyes only gleam. lie 
saw everything, but lightly, dazzlingly, through the 
gleam of the senses. The first sip of the mystic cup 
merely produced intoxication. 

Then, slowly, minute by minute, the wild animal 
instinct cleared off, and the gray light of spiritual 
perception settled into the eyes. By this time, the 
mists on either side of the glen had changed into mere 
solitary vapors, dying a lingering death each in some 
lonely gorge screened from the sun ; and the moun- 
tains shone darkly beautiful after their morning bath 
of rain. Prominent above all, on the northeast side 
of the glen, rose the serrated outlines of Scuir-na- 
Gillean, or the Hill of the Young Men, so named 
after certain shepherds who lost their lives while vainly 
endeavoring to gain the summit. The height of this 
mountain, perhaps the highest of the Cuchullins, does 
not exceed 3200 feet, but the ascent is very perilous. 
Rent into huge fissures by the throes of earthquake, 
titanic and livid, from foot to base one stretch of 
stone, without one blade of grass or green heather, it 
stretched its weirdly broken outline against a wind- 
less and cloudless sky. Few feet have trod its highest 
cliffs. In 1836, when Professor Forbes first visited 
the locality, the ascent was deemed impossible. 
" Talking of it," writes the Professor, " with an active 
forester in the service of Lord Macdouald, named 
Duncan Macintyre, whom I engaged to guide me to 
Corruisk from Sligachan, he told me that he had 
attempted it repeatedly without success, both by him- 


self, and also with different strangers, who had en- 
gaged him for the purpose ; but he indicated a way 
different from those which he had tried, which he 
thought mio;ht be more successful. I engaged him to 
accompany me ; and the next day (June 7) we suc- 
ceeded in gaining the top, the extreme roughness of 
the rocks (all hypersthene) rendering the ascent safe, 
where, with any other formation, it might have 
been exceedingly perilous. Indeed, I have never 
seen a rock so adapted for clambering. At this time 
I erected a cairn and temporary flag, which stood, I 
was informed, a whole year ; but having no barometer, 
I could not ascertain the height, which I estimated 
at 3000 feet. In 1843 I was in Skye with a barome- 
ter, but' had not an opportunity of revisiting the 
Cuchullins ; but in May, 1845, I ascended the lower 
summit, nearly adjoining, marked Bruch-na-Fray in 
the map ; and wishing to ascertain the difference of 
the height of Scuir-na-Gillean, I proposed to Mac- 
intyre to try to ascend it from the west side. It was 
no sooner proposed than attempted. It was impossi- 
ble to otherwise than descend deep in the rugged 
ravine of Loat-o'-Corry, which separates the simamits, 
and then face an ascent, which from a distance 
appeared almost perpendicular; but, aided by the 
quality of the rocks already mentioned, we gained 
the Scur-na-Gillean from the west side, althouu-h on 
reaching the top, and gazing back, it looked like a 
dizzy precijjice." * The barometrical record and 

* At the foot of one of the precipices the mangled body of a 
young toiiriHt was discovered during the autumn of 1870. The 
dead man was one of two friends who startid to malie the ascent 


geological observations made by the Professor, both 
here and elsewhere among the Cuchullins, are of the 
very highest interest. Everywhere among the moun- 
tains of Skye arc to be traced the proofs of direct 
glacial action. Many phenomena can be described 
only as the effects of moving ice ; and it would be 
quite impossible to find these phenomena in greater 
perfection even among the Alj^s. 

We have no patience with those imaginative people 
who are so far fascinated by transcendental meteors as 
to class geology in the prose sisterhood of algebra 
and mathematics. The typical geologist, indeed, whom 
we meet prowling, hammer in hand, in the darkness 
of Glen Sannox, or rock-tapping on the sea-shore 
in the society of elderly virgins, or examining Agassiz' 
atlas through blue spectacles on board the High- 
land steamboat — this typical being, we repeat, is fre- 
quently duller company than the Free Church minis- 
ter or the domine ; but he is a mere fumbler about 
the footprints of the fair science, with never the 
courage to look straight into those beautiful blind 
eyes of hers, and discover that she has a soul. By 
what name shall we call her, if not by the divine 
name of Mnemosyne — the sphinx-like spirit that 
broods and remembers — a soul, a divinity, brooding 
blind in the solitude, and feeling with her fingers the 
raised letters of the stone-book which she holds in 
her lap, and wherein God has written the veritable 

of Scuir-na-Gillean togetlier ; but one of wliom, being taken 
slightly unwell ou the way, returned to Sligachau lun, leaving 
his comrade to proceed to the heights alone, and meet there his 
terrible doom. 


"Legend of the "World?" A prose science? — say- 
rather a sublime Muse ! Why, her throne is made of 
the mountains of the earth, and her speech is the 
earth-slip and the volcano, and her taper is the light- 
ning, and her forehead touches a coronal of stars. 
Only the fool misapprehends her and blasphemes. 
Whoso looks into her face with reverent eyes is 
appalled by the light of God there, and sinks to his 
knees, crying, " I would seek unto God, and unto 
God would I commit my cause, who doeth great 
things and unsearchable, marvelous things without 

In sober words, without fine writing or rapture, it 
must be said that the Cuchullins cannot lono; be con- 
templated apart from their geology. Turn your eyes 
again for a moment on Scuir-na-Gillean ! Note those 
somber hues, those terrific shadows, that jagged out- 
line traced as with a frenzied finger along the sky. It 
is a gentle autumn morning, and the film of white 
cloud resting on yonder topmost peak is moveless as 
the ghost of the moon in an Aj)ril heaven. Tliere is 
no sound save the melancholy murmur of water. A 
strange awe steals over you as you gaze ; the soul 
broods in its own twilight. Then as the first feeling 
of almost animal perception fails, the mind awakens 
from its torpor, and with it comes a sudden illumina- 
tion. Along those serrated peaks runs a fiery tongue 
of fiamo, tlie abysses blacken, the air is filled with a 
deep groan, and a thunder-cloud, driving past in a 
great wind, clutches at the mountain, and clinging 
there, belches flame, and beats the darkness into fire 
with wings of iron. From a rent above, the drifting 


stars gaze, like affrighted eyes, dim as corpsc-liglits. 
In a moment, this wonder passes ; the sudden tension 
of the mind fails, and witli it the phantasm, and you 
are again in the torpid condition, gazing dreamily at 
the jagged outline of the Titan, dark and silent in the 
brightness of the autumn morning. Again Mnemo- 
syne waves her hand, and again the mind flashes 
into picture, 

" O lioary liills, thougli ye look aged, ye 

Are but the children of a latter time I 

Methinks I see ye, in that hour sublime 
When from the hissing caldron of the sea 
Ye were uphcaven, while so terribly 

The clouds boiled, and the lightning scorched ye bare. 
Wild, new-born, blind. Titans in agony. 

Ye glared at heaven through folds of fiery hair. . . . 
Then, in an instant, while ye trembled thus, 
A Hand from heaven, white and luminous. 

Passed o'er your brows, and hushed your firey breath. 
Lo ! one by one the dim stars gathered round ; 
The great deep glassed itself, and with no sound 

A cold snow glimmering fell ; and all was still as death." 

You have now a glimpse of the ninth circle of the 
Inferno. Surrounded by the region of the Cold 
Clime, girt round on every side by unearthly forms of 
ice and rock, you see below you vales of frozen water, 
and unfathomable deeps, blue as the overhanging 
heaven. Where fire once raved, snow now broods. 
Dome, pyramid, and pinnacle tower around with 
walls and crags of glittering ice. Winds contend 
silently, and heap the snow witli rapid breath. Here 
and there gleams the vaporous lightning, innocent 
as the Aurora. The glaciers slip, and ever change. 
And down through the heart of all this desolation, 


past the very spot where you stand, filling the 
gigantic hollow of Glen Sligachan, welling onward 
with one deep murmur, carrying with it mighty rocks 
and blasted pine-trees, rolls a majestic river, here 
burnished black as ebony in the rush of its own 
speed, there foaming over broken boulders and 
tottering crags, and everywhere gathering into its 
troubled bosom the drifting glacier and the melting 

The Wanderer at least saw all this plain enough as 
he passed along the weary glen in the rear of his 
party ; and the fanciful retrospect, instead of dulling 
the scene, lends it a solemn consecration. Poor 
indeed would be the songs of all the Muses, compared 
with the tale of Mnemosyne, if she could only be 
brought to utter half she knows. 

While the Wanderer was brooding, the riders and 
their guide were getting well ahead. The ponies 
were little shaggy rascals, with short, stumpy legs, 
twisted like sticks of blackthorn, knees stiff as rusty 
hinges, and never on any account to be coaxed into 
a trot ; small eyes, where drowsiness and mischief met ; 
their invariable pace was a walk, slow, but steady ; 
and when left entirely to themselves, they could be 
relied on to pass safely where the most cautious 
foot-traveler stumbled. The little, phlegmatic fel- 
lows seldom erred. They planted their feet alike on 
the rolling stone and the slippery rock, choosing 
sometimes the most unlikely passages, and avoid- 
ing by instinct the peat-bog and the green morass. 
Only when the unskilled rider, in his human vanitv, 
fancied to improve matters by nning the rein and 


gniding the beast into what looked tlie right way, 
did rider and steed seem in danger of getting 
into trouble. And what a road was that to travel I 
More than once on the way did the Wanderer con- 
gratulate himself on being afoot. Only a lynx's eye 
could have made out the pathway along the glen. 
Everywhere huge boulders were strewn thick as 
pebbles, intei-sected constantly by brawling bums, 
and padded round with knots of ancient heather. 
To the left the heather and rock clomb over many 
thymy knolls, until it fringed the base of the Eed 
Hills, which rose above, round, unpicturesque, and 
discolored with rain-washed sand. To the risrht, 
also, ever stretched heather and rock, until they 
mingled in imperceptible shadow into the deep- 
green hypersthene of the Cuchullins. The sun now 
shone bright, but only deepened the shadows on the 
neighboring hills, and still not a sound broke the 
melancholy silence. " In Glen Sligachan, as in 
many other parts of Skye," writes Alexander Smith, 
"the scenery curiously repels you, and drives you in 
on yourself. You have a quickened sense of your 
own individuality. The enormous bulks, their 
gradual receding to invisible crests, their utter 
movelessness, their austere silence, daunt you. You 
are conscious of their presence, and you hardly 
care to speak, lest you be overheard. You can't 
laugh ; you would not crack a joke for the world. 
Glen Sligachan would be the place to do a little 
self-examination in. There you would have a sense 
of your own meannesses, selfishnesses, paltry evasions 
of truth and duty, and find out what a shabby fellow 



you at lieart are; and, looking up to your silent 
fatlier-confesBors, you would find no mercy in tlieir 
grim faces." Sucli, doubtless, is the efiect of the 
scene on some men, but most surely on those who 
live in cities and read Thackeray. Glen Sligachan 
is, indeed, weird and silent, but in no true sense 
of the word repelling. The eye is satisfied at 
every step, the shadows and the silence only deepen 
the beauty, and the mood awakened is one, not 
of shapeless, shuddering awe, but of brooding, mystic 

Pause here, where your path is the dry bed of a 
torrent, and look yonder to the northeast. Between 
two hills opens the great gorge of Hart-o'-Corry, 
which is closed in again far away by a wall of livid 
stone. 'Tis broad day here, but gray twilight yonder. 
In the hollow of the corry broods a dense vapor, and 
above it, down the deep-green fissures of the hypers- 
thene, trickle streams like threads of hoary silver, 
frozen motionless by distance ; while higher, far 
above the rayless abyss, the sky is serene and 
hyacinthine blue. That black speck over the top- 
most peak, that little mark scarce bigger than the 
dot of an i, is an eagle ; it hovers for many minutes 
motionless, and then melts imperceptibly away. 
From the side of Hart-o'-Corry, Scuir-na-Gillean 
shoots up its rugged columns ; and, close to the mouth 
of the corry, the sharply defined sweep of the deep- 
green hypersthene, overlaying the pale yellow felspar, 
has an effect of rai'e beauty. Turning now, and 
looking up the glen toward Camasunary, you behold 
Ben Blaven closing in the view, and towering into 


the slcy from precipice to precipice, its ashen gi'ij 
Hanks corroding everywhere into veins of mineral 
green, until it cuts the ether with a sharp, hooked 
forehead of solid stone. 

' O "wonderful mountain of Blavcn ! 
How oft since our parting hour 
Tou have roared with the wintry torrents. 

You have gh)omed through the thunder-shower I 
O BLiveu, rocky Blaven 1 

How I long to be with you again. 
To see lashed gulf and gully 

Smoke white in the windy rain — 
To see in the scarlet sunrise 

The mist-wreaths perish with heat ; 
, The wet rock slide with a trickling gleam 

Right down to the cataract's feet ; 
While toward the crimson islands. 

Where the sea-birds flutter and skirl, 
A cormorant flaps o'er a sleek ocean floor 

Of tremulous mother-of-pearl."* 

Blaven stands alone, separated from the chain of 
Cuchullins proper, and with the arms of the Red 
Hills encircling him and offering tribute. It is sel- 
dom he deigns to put aside his crown of mist, hut on 
this golden day he is unkinged. " The sunbeam 
pours its light stream before him ; his hair meets the 
wind of his hills, his face is settled from war, the 
calm dew of the morning lies on the hill of roses, for 
the sun is faint on his side, and the lake is settled and 
blue in the vale." 

It is thus, as we gaze, that the thin sound of the 

* Alexander Smith. 


voice of Cona breaks in upon our meditations ; " O 
bard ! I hear thy voice ; it is pleasant as the gale 
of the spring that sighs on the hunter's ear, when he 
wakens from dreams of joy, and has heard the music 
of the spirits of the hill." In the dreamy wanderings 
of our mind we had almost forgotten Ossian, the true 
spirit of the mystic scene. O ye ghosts of the 
lonely Cromla ! Ye souls of chiefs that are no more ! 
ye are *' like a beam that has shone, like a mist that 
has fled away." " The sons of song are gone to rest." 
But one voice remains, strange and sad, " like a blast 
that roars loudly on a sea-surrounded rock, after the 
winds are laid." 

What the Cuchullins are to all other British moun- 
tains, Ossian is to all other British- bards. He abides 
in his place, neither greater nor less, challenging 
comparison with no one, solitary, sad, wrapt in eter- 
nal twilight. Just in the same way as Glen Sligachan 
repelled Alexander Smith, the song of Ossian tires 
and wearies Brown and Kobinson ; fashionable once, 
it is now in disrepute ; by Byron, Goethe, and 
Napoleon cherished as a solemn inspiration, and 
lately pooh-poohed as conventional and artificial by 
the Saturday Beviewer, it abides forgotten, like 
Blaven, till such time as humorous critics may care to 
patronize it again. It keeps its place, though, as 
surely as Scuir-na-Gillean and Blaven keep theirs. It 
is based on the rock, and will endure. Meantime, let 
us for once join issue with Mr. Arnold, and exchxim, 
" Woody Morven, and echoing Lora, and Selnia with 
its silent halls — we all owe them a debt of gratitude ; 


and when we are unjust cnougli to forget it, may tlie 
Muse forget us ! "* 

As to the question of authenticity, that need not be 
introduced at this time of day. Gibbon's sneer and 
Johnson's abuse prove nothing. In this, as in all 
matters, Gibbon was a skeptic, as worthy to be heard 
on Ossian as Voltaire on Shakespeare, or Gigadibs on 
Walt Whitman. In this, as in everything else, 
Johnson was a bully, a dear, lovable, short-sighted 
bully, as fit to listen to Fingal as to paint the scenery 
of the CuchuUins. The philological battle still rages; 
but few of those competent to judge now doubt that 
Macpherson did receive Gaelic MSS., that the origi- 
nals of his translations were really found in the High- 
lands — that, in a word, Macpherson's Ossian is a bona- 
fide attempt to render into English a traditionary 
poetic literature similar in origin and history to the 
Homeric poems.f Truly has it been said that " Ossian 
drew into himself every lyrical runnel, augmented 
himself in every way, drained centuries of their songs ; 
and living an oral and gypsy life, handed down from 
generation to generation, without being committed to 

* " On tlie Study of Celtic Literature.'' By Mattliew Arnold. 

f Since this paper was written and printed, tlie Rev. Mr Clark 
lias published his two exhaustive volumes of Ossian, containing 
the Gaelic originals, Macpherson's translation, and a new literal 
version, with a capital preliminary dissertation and invaluable 
illustrative notes. Mr. Clark has the reputation of being the 
best Celtic scholar in the Highlands, and his work is a monument 
that will not perish as long as men care to study at the fountain- 
head a poetry which, be it ever so faulty, is one of the great 
literary influences of the world. 


writinoi:, and having their outlines determinatelj fixed, 
these songs become vested in a multitude, every 
reciter having more or less to do to them. For 
centuries the floating legendary material was reshaped, 
added to, and altered l)y the changing spirit and emo- 
tion of the Celt." What remains to us is a set of 
titanic fragments, which, like the scattered boulders 
and hlocs jperches of Glen Sligachan, show where a 
mighty antique landscape once existed. The transla- 
tion of Macpherson, made as it was by a scholar famil- 
iar with modern literature, has numberless touches 
showing that the chisel has been used to polish the 
original granite, but it is on the whole a marvelous bit 
of workmanship, strong, free, subtle, full of genius — 
better than any English translation of the Iliad, 
nearer to the true antique than Chapman's, or Pope's, 
or Derby's, or Blackie's versions of the Greek. In 
this translation, retranslated, Goethe read it, and 
Napoleon ; and each stole something from it, if only 
a phrase. Veritably, at first sight, it lias a barbarous 
look. The prose breathes heavily, in a series of gasps, 
each gasp a sentence. Tlie sound is to a degree 
monotonous, like the voice of the wind ; it rises and 
falls, that is all, breaks occasionally into a shriek, dies 
sometimes into a sob ; but it is always a wind-like voice. 
Yet, just as hour after hour we have sat by the fireside 
hearkening to the wind itself, feeling the sadness of 
IlTaturc creep into the soul and subdue it, so have we 
sat listening to the sad " sound of the voice of Cona." 
It is a wind, a wind passing among mountains. Only 
a sound, yet the soul follows it out into the darkness — 
where it blows the beard from the thistle on the ruin, 


wliere it inists the pictures in the moonlight mere, 
where it meets the shadows shivering in the desolate 
cony, where it dies away with a divine whisper on the 
fringe of the mystic sea. A wind only, but a voice 
ciying, " I have seen the walls of Balcutha, but they 
were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls, 
and the voice of the people is heard no more. The 
stream of Clutha was removed from its place by the 
fall of the walls. The thistle shook there its lonely 
head ; the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked 
out from the windows ; the rank grass of the wall 
waved round his head." It is an eerie wail out of 
the solitude. We are blown hither and thither on it, 
through the mists of Morven, over the livid Cuchul- 
lins, through the terror of tempest, the dewy dimness 
of dawn — where the heroes are fighting, where a 
thousand shields clang — where rises the smoke of the 
ruined home, the moan of the desolate children — 
where the dead bleed, and "the hawks of heaven 
come from all their winds to feed on the foes of 
Auner" — where the sea rolls far distant, and the 
white foam is like the sails of ships — where the 
narrow house looks pleasant in the waste, and " the 
gray stone of the dead." But ever and anon we 
pause, listening, and know that we are hearkening to 
a sound only, to the lonely cry of the wind. 

After all, it is unfair to call this monotonousness a 
demerit. Ossian's poems have much more in common 
with the Theogony than the Iliad and Odyssey. 
Ulysses and Thersites were comparatively modern 
products of the Greek Epos. In the Ossianic period 
humanity dwelt in the twilight which precedes the 


dawn of culture. The heroes are not only colossal, 
but shadowy — dim iu a dim light — figures vaguer 
than any in the Eddas ; you see the gleam of their 
eyes, the flash of their swords, you hear the solemn 
sound of their voices; hut they never laugh, and if 
they uplift a festal cup, it is with solemn armswecp 
and hushed speech. The landscape where they move 
is this landsca2)e of Glen Sligachan, with a frequent 
glimpse of woodier Morven, and a far-off glimmer of 
the Western Sea ; all this shadowy, for the " morning 
is gray on Cromla," or the " pale light of the night is 
sad." " I sit hy the mossy fountain ; on the top of 
the hill of "^vind. One tree is rustling above me. 
Dark waves roll over the heath. The lake is troubled 
below. The deer descend from tlie hill. It is mid- 
day, but all is silent." This is a day picture, but 
there is little sunlight. It is in this atmosphere that 
some readers expect variety. They weary of the 
wind, and the gray stone on the waste, and the 
shadows of heroes. " Oh for one gleam of humor, of 
the quick spirit of life ! " they cry. As well might 
they look for Falstaff in the Iliad, or for Browning's 
Broad Church Pope in Shakespeare ! Blaven and 
his brethren are not mirth-breeding ; nor is Ossian. 
Here in the waste, and there in the book, humanity 
fades far off; though coming from both, we drink 
with fresher breath the strong salt air of the free 
waves of the world. 

In these days of metre-mongers, in these days when 
poetry is a tinkling cymbal or a pretty picture, when 
Art has got hold of her sister Muse and bedaubed 
her with unnatural color, we might well expect the 


piiWic to be indifferent to Ossian. Not the least 
objection to tlie Gael, in the eyes of library-readers, is 
tlie peculiar gasping prose in which the translation is 
written ; and it is an objection ; yet it affords scope 
for passages of wonderful melody, just as does the 
prose of Plato, or of Shakespeare,* or the semi-Biblical 
line of Walt Whitman. " Before the left side of the 
car is seen the snorting horse! The thin-maned, 
high-headed, strong-hoofed, fleet-bomiding son of the 
hill ; his name is Dusronnal, among the stormy sons 
of the sword." Such a passage is prose as fully 
acceptable as a more literal translation, broken up 
into lines like the original : 

" By the other side of the chariot 
Is the arch-neck'd, snorting, 
Narrow-maued, high-mettled, strong-hoofed. 
Swift-footed, wide-nostril ed steed of the mountains; 
Dusrongeal is the name of the horse." 

Music in our own day having run to tune, in poetry 
as in everything else, we eschew unrhymed metres 
and poetical prose ; yet it is as legitimate to call 
Beethoven a barbarian as to abuse Ossian and Whit- 
man for their want of melody. And as to the charge 
that Ossian lacks humor ^ where in our other British 
poetry is humor so rife that we imperatively de- 
mand it from the Gael. Where is Milton's humor? 
/or Shelley's ? Where in contemporary poetry is there 
a grain of the divine salt of life, such as makes 
Chaucer prince of tale-tellers, and gladdens the 

* Take Hamlet's speech about himself (commencing, " I have 
of late, but wherefore I know not," etc.) as an example of what 
Coleridge calls " the wonderfulness of prose." 


academic period of rare Ben, and makes Falstaff 
lovable, and Bardolpli's red nose delicious, and pre- 
serves the sloveulj-scribbled " Beggar's Opera " for all 
time. In sober truth, humor and worldly wisdom, 
and all we hlase moderns mean by variety, were 
scarcely created in the Ossianic period. Why, they 
are rare enough in tlie lonely Hebrides even now, 
I^ow, in the nineteenth century, the Celtic islander 
smiles as little as old Fingal or Cuchullin. Ilis 
laugh is grim and deep ; he is too far back in time 
to laugh lovingly. His loving mood is earnest, tear- 
ful, almost painful, sometimes full of a dim bright- 
ness, but never exuberant and joyful. 

Yet we moderns, who love hoary old Jack for his 
sins, and stand tearfully at his bed of death,* and like 
all fat men and sinners better for his sake, we to 
whom life is the quaintest and drollest of all plays, as 
well as the deepest and divinest of all mysteries, may 
listen very profitably, ever and anon, to the monoto- 

* " Ilost. Nay, sure, he's not in hell ; he's in Arthur's bosom, 
if ever man went to Arthur's bosom. 'A made a finer end, and 
went away, an it had been any christom child ; 'a parted even 
just between twelve and one, e'en at turning o' tlie tide ; for 
after I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with the flowers, 
and smile upon his fingers' ends, I knew there was but one way ; 
for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and 'a babbled of green fields. 
' IIow now. Sir John V quoth I ; ' what, man ! be of good cheer.' 
So 'a cried out ' God, God, God ! ' three or four times ; now I, to 
comfort him, bid liim 'a should not think of God ; I hoped there 
was no need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yer. So, 
'a bade me lay more clothes on his feet. I put my hand into the 
bed, and felt them, and they were as cold as any stone ; then 1 felt 
to his knees, and so upward and upward, and all was as cold as 
any stone." — llcnry F., ii. 3. 


noiis wail of Cona, may pass a brooding liour in tlie 
twiliglit shadow of tliis eerie poetry. The influence 
of Ossian upon us is quite specific; not religious 
at all, not merely ghostly, but solemn and sad and 
beautiful ; with just enough life to preserve a thread 
of human interest ; with too little life to awaken us 
from the mood of bi'ooding, mystic feeling produced 
by the lonely landscape, and the dim dawn, and the 
changeful moon. Ossian dreams not of a Supreme 
Being, has no religious feeling, but he believes in 
gracious spirits "fair as the ghost of the hill, when 
it moves in a sunbeam at noon, over the silence of 
Morven." If there is no humor in his poems, there 
is a great deal of exquisitely human tenderness. 
Kothing can be more touching in its way than 
the death of Fellan: " Ossian, lay me in that hollow 
rock. Raise no stone above me, lest one should 
ask about my fame. I am fallen in the first of my 
fields, fallen without renown." Perfect in its way, 
too, is the imagery in the lament of Malvina over the 
death of Oscar : " I was a lovely tree in thy pres- 
ence, Oscar ! with all my branches round me. But 
thy breath came like a blast from the desert and 
laid my green head low. The spring returned with 
its showers, but no leaf of mine arose." 

Sweetest and tenderest of all Ossian's songs, the 
song which fills the soul here in the gorges of Glen 
Sligachan, is " BeiTathon," the '' last sound of the 
voice of Cona." It is a wind indeed, strange and ten- 
der, deep and true. All the strife is hushed now ; 
Malvina the beautiful is dead, and the old bard, know- 
ing that his hour is di'awing nigh, mm-murs over a 


fair legend of the past. " Such were my deeds, son 
of Appin, wlien the arm of my youth was young. 
But I am alone at Lutha. My voice is like the last 
sound of the wind, when it forsakes the woods. But 
Ossian shall not be long alone ; he sees the mist that 
shall receive his ghost ; he beholds the mist that shall 
form his robe when he appears on his hills. The sons 
of feeble men shall behold me and admire the stature 
of the chiefs of old. They shall creep to their caves. 
. . . Lead, son of Appin, lead the aged to his woods. 
The wind begins to rise ; the dark wave resounds. . . . 
Bring me the hai-p, son of Appin. Another song shall 
arise. My soul shall depart in the sound. . . . Bear 
the mournful sound away to Fingal's airy hall ; bear 
it to Fingal's hall, that he may hear the voice of his 
son. . . . The blast of the north opens thy gates. O 
king ! I behold thee sitting on mist, dimly gleaming 
in all thine arms. Thy foi-m now is not the terror of 
the valiant. It is like a watery cloud, when we see 
the stars behind it with their weeping eyes. Thy 
shield is the aged moon ; thy sword a vapor half kin- 
dled with fire. Dim and feeble is the chief who trav- 
eled in brio;htness before. ... I hear the voice of Fin- 
gal. Long has it been absent from mine ear ! ' Come, 
Ossian, come away 1 ' he says. ... * Come, Ossian, 
come away ! ' he says. ' Come, fly with thy fathers 
on clouds.' I come, I come, thou king of men. The 
life of Ossian fails. I begin to vanish on Cona. My 
steps are not seen in Selma. Beside the stone of Mora 
I shall fall asleep. The winds whistling in my gray 
hair shall not awaken me. . . . Another race shall 
arise." If this be not a veritable voice then poesy is 


dumb indeed. The desolate cry of Lear is not more 

liead these poems to-day on Glen Sligaclian, or on 
the slopes of Elaven. Is not the solemn grayncss 
everywhere ? Is there a touch, a tint of the quiet 
landscape lost ? Not that Ossian described Nature ; 
that was left for the modem. lie contrives, however, 
while using the simplest imagery, while never pausing 
to transcribe, to conjure up before us the very spirit of 
such scenes as this. Mere description, however pow- 
erful, is of little avail ; and painting is not much bet- 
ter. Ossian's versa resembles Loch Corruisk more 
closely than Turner's picture, powerful and suggestive 
as that picture is. 

While we are listening to the thin voice of Cona, 
and being betrayed into a monologue, our exploring 
party is getting well ahead ; and turning off across a 
marshy hollow to the right, guide and ponies begin 
to clamber up the sides of a hill — one of the sandy 
Red Hills, the shoulder of which overlooks the lonely 
lake of which we are in quest. The dog Schneider 
has vanished in frantic pursuit of some imaginary 
game — no, there she is, dwarfed to the size of a mouse, 
creeping along a seemingly inaccessible crag. Shouts 
are of no avail ; they only make the hills moan. But 
look ! what is that little group far above her ? Deer, 
by Jove ! — red deer, browsing, actually browsing, in a 
hollow that seems as stony and innocent of all herb- 
age as a doorstep, and looking in their unconcern 
about the size of sheep. The field-glass brings them 
aggravatingly close, and a noble group they are — 
harts as well as hinds. O Hamish, Ilamish Shaw, 


what a place for a stalk ! A stiff walk round yonder 
shoulder, half a mile to leeward ; a covered approach 
for a mile behind that ridge ; then a creep along the 
dry bed of a torrent, steadily, oh, how steadily ! lest a 
rattle of small stones should spoil all ; then a crawl . 
on one's belly to the great boulder to leeward of them, 
and theii^ Ilamish, a cool pulse, a steady aim, and 
the finest set of antlers there ! To look on, gunless, 
hopeless, is almost more than flesh and blood can en- 
dure. Katural scenery, Ossian, mysticism, are for- 
gotten in a moment. Ah, but they had the best of 
it — those old heroes of the chase, those seekers of 
perilous adventm'es by flood and field ; and Fingal 
stalked his stag in that era like a genuine sportsman ! 
Come alono;, Hamish Shaw : let us turn our faces 
away, lest we cry with longing. See, thgugh, the 
dog is winding them — she sees — she charges them. 
They stand their ground coolly, only one big fellow 
begins to tickle the earth with his antlers. Schnei- 
der's pace grows slower and more reflective. She ex- 
pected to scatter them like wind, and she is amazed 
at their stolidity. Obviously thinking discretion the 
better part of valor, she pauses, and gazes at them 
from a distance of twenty yards. They don't stir, 
but gaze at her with uplifted lieads. At last, tired of 
the scrutiny, they turn slowly, very slowly, and walk, 
at a snail's pace, up the ravine ; while Schneider, ob- 
viously staggered at the discovery that at least one 
kind of animal is quite a match for her, and won't 
scud out of her fiery path like a snipe or a rabbit, de- 
scends the hill dreamily — quite prepared to accept 


her thrasliincj in exchange for the half-hour's novel 
Bport that she has had among the mountains. 

How steadily the ponies make their way up this 
pathway, which is sometimes slippery as glass, some- 
times crumbling like a ruin ; they keep their feet witli 
only an occasional stumble, and do not appear the 
least bit exhausted by their efforts. Parts of the way 
are precipitous to a degree, part^ are formed by the 
unstable bed of a shallow burn. At last the topmost 
ridge is gained, the riders dismount, and the guide, 
stripping the ponies of their saddles and bridles, turns 
them out to crop a. noontide meal on the mossy 
ground. Lunch is thereupon spread out on a rock, 
and before casting one glance around them, the Wan- 
derer and the other human machines begin to feed 
and drink, winding up the jaded body to the point of 
rational enjoyment and spiritual perception. 

The views from this hillside — the usual point sought 
by tourists from Sligachan — are inferior in beauty to 
many we have seen en route, but they are very grand. 
One glimpse, indeed, of the peaks of Scuir-na-Gillean, 
seen peeping jagged over an intervening chain of 
mountain, is beyond all parallel magnificent. The 
view of Loch Corruisk,* for which the tourists come, 
is simply disappointing. Only one corner of the loch 
is visible, lying below at a distance of about two 
miles, and gives not the faintest idea of its grandem-. 
The usual plan adopted by good walkers is to descend 
to the side of Corruisk, leaving the guide to await 
their return on the summit of the ridoe. 


* Anglice, tlie " Corry of tlie Water.' 


But on the present occasion, the "Wanderer has de- 
termined to pass the summer night here in the soli- 
tude, leaving the rest of the party to return alone — 
all save the faithful henchman, Ilamish, on whose 
back is strapped a waterproof sleeping-bag, a box of» 
apparatus for cooking breakfast, etc. Schneider, too, 
will remain, constant as ever to her liege lord and mas- 
ter. So, after a parting caulker with the men, and a 
good-night's kiss from the lady, the Wanderer whis- 
tles his dog and plunges down the hill at his favorite 
headlong rate, while Hamish, more heavily loaded, 
follows leisurely, with the swinging gait, slow but 
steady, peculiar to mariners of all sorts on land. A 
very short run brings the Wanderer to the shores of 
Lochan Dhu, a dark and desolate tarn, situated high 
up on the hillside, and surrounded by wild stretches 
of marsh, and rock, and bog. Standing here for a 
moment, he waves a last farewell to the party on the 
peak, who stand far above him, darkly silhouetted 
against the sky. 


coeruisk; ok, the corrt of the water. 

The Lone Water — The Region of Twilight — Blocs Perches— KamiBh 
Shaw's Views— The Cave of the Ghost — The Dunvegan Pilot's Story — 
Echoes, Mists, and Shadows — Squalls in Loch Scavaig — A Highlander's 
Ideas of Beauty — Camping Out in the CoiTy — A Stormy Dawn — The 
Fishermen and the Strange Harbor — Loch Scavaig — The Spar Cave — 

Out of the gloomy breast of Loelian Dhii issues a 
brawling burn, which plunges from shelf to shelf 
downward, here narrowing to a rush-fringed rapid, 
there broadening out into miniature meres that glitter 
golden in the sunlight and are full of tiny trout, and 
in more than one place overflowing incontinently, and 
breaking up into rivulets and scattered pools, inter- 
spersed with huge boulders, moss-grown stones, and 
clumps of vari-colored heather. With the burn for 
his guide, the Wanderer sped, more than once miss- 
ing his leaps from stone to stone, and cooling his 
heated legs in the limpid water, and, indeed, rather 
courting the bath than otherwise, so pleasantly the 
water prattled and sparkled. The afternoon was well 
advanced now, and still not a cloud came to destroy 
the golden glory of the day. The sun had drunk all 
the dew of the heather, and the very bogs looked dry 


and brown. Below there was a glimpse of tlicLonc 
Water, glassy, calm, and black as ebony. A few 
steps downward, still downward, and the golden day 
was dimming into shadow. Coming suddenly on 
Loch Corruisk, the Wanderer seemed in a moment 
surrounded with twilight, lie paused close to the 
corry, on a rocky knoll, with the hot sun in his eyes, 
but before him the shadows lay moveless — not a 
glimmer of sunliglit touched the solemn mere — every- 
where the place brooded in its own mystery, silent, 
beautiful, and dark. 

To speak in the first place by the card, Corruisk, 
or the Cony of the Water, is a wild gorge, oval in 
shape, about three miles long and a mile broad, in 
the center of which a sheet of water stretches for 
about two miles, surrounded on every side by rocky 
precipices totally without vegetation, and towering in 
one sheer plane of livid rock, until they mingle with 
the wildly picturesque and jagged outlines of the top- 
most peak of the Cuchulliiis. Directly on entering 
its somber darkness, the student is inevitably re- 
minded of the awful region of Malebolge : 

" Luogo e in Inferno detto Malebolge 
Tutto di pietra e di color ferrigno, 
Come la cercliia, che d'intorno '1 volge." , 

The mere is black as jet, its waters only broken 
and brightened by four small, grassy islands, on the 
edges of the largest of which that summer day the 
black-backed gulls were sitting, with the feathery 
gleam of their shadows faintly breaking the glassy 
blackness below them. These islands form the only 
bit of vegetable green in all the lonely prospect. 


Close to tlie shores of the loch, and at the foot of the 
crag^s, there are dark-brown stretches of heath ; hut 
the heig'hts above them are leafless as the columns of 
a cathedral. 

Coming abruptly on the shores of this loneliest of 
lakes, the Wanderer had passed instantaneously from 
sunlight to twilight, from brightness to mystery, from 
the gladsome stir of the day to a silence unbroken by 
the movement of any created thing. Every feature of 
the scene was familiar to him — he had seen it in all 
weathers, under all aspects — ^yet his spirit was pos- 
sessed as completely, as awe-stricken, as solemnized, 
as when he came thither out of the world's stir for 
the first time. The brooding desolation is there for- 
ever. There was no siijn to show that it had ever 
been broken by a human foot since his last visit. lie 
left it in twilight, and in twilight he found it. Since 
he had departed, scarce a sunbeam had broken the 
darkness of the dead mere ; so close do the mountain 
pinnacles tower on all sides, that only when the sun 
is sheer above can the twilight be broken ; and when 
it is borne in mind that the Cuchullins are the chosen 
lairs of all the winds, that their hollows are the dark 
breeding-places of all the monsters of storm, that 
scarce a day passes over them without mist and tears, 
one ceases to wonder at the unbroken darkness. A 
great cathedral is solemn ; solemner still is such an 
island as Ilaskeir, when it sleeps silent amid the rainy 
grief of a dead still sea ; but Corruisk is beyond all ex- 
pression solemnest of all. Perpetual twilight, perfect 
silence, terribly brooding desolation. Though there 
are a thousand voices on all sides— the voices of 


winds, of wild waters, of sliifting crags — tlie>y die 
away here into a lieart-beat. See ! down tlie torn 
checks of all those precipices tear headlong torrents 
white in foam, and each is crying, though you cannot 
hear it. Only one low mnrmnr, deeper tha7i silence, 
fills the dead air. The black water laps silently on 
the dark claystone shingle of the shore. The cloud 
passes silently, ftir away over the melancholy peaks. 

Streams innumerable come from all directions to 
pour themselves into the abyss ; and enormous frag- 
ments of stone lie everywhere, as if freshly fallen 
from the precipices, while many of these gigantic 
boulders, as McCulloch observes, are "ftoised in such 
a manner on the very edges of the precipitous rocks 
on which they have fallen, as to render it difficult to 
imagine how they could have rested in such places, 
though the presence of snow at the time of their fall 
may perhaps explain this difficulty." These, indeed, 
are the true Uocs perches, marking the course of the 
glacier which once invaded those wilds. " The inter- 
val between the borders of the lake and the side of 
Garsven is strewed with them ; the whole, of what- 
ever size, lying on the surface in a state of uniform 
freshness and integrity, unattended by a single plant 
or atom of soil, as if they had all but recently fallen 
in a single shower." The mode in which they lie is 
no less remarkable. The bottom of the valley is cov- 
ered with rocky eminences, of Avhich the summits are 
not only bare, but often very narrow, while their de- 
clivities are always steep, and often perpendicular. 
Upon these rocks the fragments lie just as on the more 
level ground. One, weighing about one hundred 


tons,* has become a rocking stone ; another, of not less 
than fifty, stands on the narrow edge of a rock a hun- 
dred feet higher than that ground which must have 
fii'st met it in the descent. 

" Mighty rocks. 
Which liave from unimaginable years 
Sastaiuod themselves with terror and with toil 
Over a gulf, and with the agony 
Witli which they cling seem slowly coming down — 
Even as a wretched soul hour after hour 
Clings to the mass of life — yet, clinging, lean ; 
And, leaning, make more dark the dread abyss 
In which they fear to fall." * 

Strangely beautiful as is the scene, it is a ruin. 
The vast fragments are the remains of a mao;nificent 
temple rising into pinnacles and minarets of ice, glit- 
tering with all the colors of the prism. Here the si- 
lent-footed glacier slipped, and the snow shifted under 
the footsteps of the wind, and there, perhaps, where 
the lonely lake lies, glittered a cold sheet of hyacin- 
thine blue ; and no gray rain-cloud brooded on the 
temple's dome — only dL4icate spirits of the vapor, 
di'inking soft radiance from the light of sun and star. 
Around this temple crawled the elk and bear, and 
swift-footed mountain deer. Summer after summer it 
abode in beauty, not stable like temples built by hands, 
but ever changing, full of the low murmur of its 
change, the melancholy sound of its own shifting 
walls and domes. Then more than once Fire swept 
out of the abyss, and clung like a snake about the 
temple, while Earthquake, like a chained monster, 
groaned below ; wild elements came from all the 

* Shelley's " Cenci." 


winds to overthrow it ; wall after wall fell, fragment 
after fragment daslie^ down. The fairy fretwork of 
snow melted, the fair carvings of ice were obliterated, 
jiinnacle and minaret dissolved in the sun, like the 
baseless fragment of a vision. Dark twilight settled 
on the ruin, and Melancholy marked it for her own. 
The walls of livid rock remain, gray from the volcano, 
and torn into rugged rents, casting perpetual darkness 
downward, where the water, bubbling up from unseen 
abysses, has spread itself into a mirror. All ruins are 
sad, but this is sad utterly. All ruins are beautiful, 
but this is beautiful beyond expression. The solemn 
S^^irit of Death comes more or less to all ruins, when- 
ever the meditative mind conjures and wishes ; but 
here it abides, at once overshadowing whosoever 
apj^roaches by the still sense of doom. " Thus saitli 
the Lord God, Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against 
thee, and 1 will make thee most desolate. When the 
whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate." The 
fiat has also been spoken here. The place has been 
solemnized to desolation. 

In deep, unutterable awe does the human visitant 
explore with timid eye the mighty crags above him, 
the layers of volcanic stone, until he finds himself 
fascinated by the strange outlines of the peaks where 
they touch the sky, and detecting fancied resemblances 
to things that live. Yonder crouches, black and dis- 
tinct against the light, a maned beast, like a lion, 
watching ; its eyes invisible, but fixed, doubtless, on 
yours. Iliglier still is a dimmer outline, as of some 
huge bird, winged like the griffin. These two re- 
semblances infect the whole scene instantaneously. 


There are shapes everywhere — in the peaks, in the 
gorges, by the torrents — living shapes, or phantoms, 
frozen still to listen or to watch, and horrifying you 
with their deathly silence. Your heart leaps as if 
something were going to happen ; and you feel, if the 
stillness were suddenly broken, and these shapes were 
to spring into motion, you would shriek and faint. 

How dark and fathomless look the abysses yonder, 
at the head of the loch ! A wild scarf of mist is fold- 
ing itself round the peaks (betokening surely that the 
clear, still weather will not remain much longer un- 
broken), and faint, gray light travels along the wildly 
indented wall beneath. It is not two miles to the 
base of the crags, yet the distance seems interminable ; 
and shadows, shifting and deepening, weary the eye 
with mysteries and dimly-reflected vistas. 

As one paces up the aisle of some vast temple, the 
Wanderer walked thither, threading his way among 
gigantic boulders, which in some wild hour have been 
torn loose and dashed down from the heiofhts. He 
felt dwarfed to the utter significance of a pigmy, small 
as a mouse crawling on the pavement of the great 
cathedral at Cologne. 

A voice broke in upon his musings. 

" I've traveled far, and seen heaps o' places," says 
Hamish Shaw, whom the "Wanderer had altogether 
forgotten ; " but I never saw the like of this. It's no' 
a canny place. Glen Sannox is wild, but this is awe- 
some. Is it no' strange that the Lord should make a 
place like this, for no use to man or beast ? " 

This was a question -involving so many philosoph- 
ical issues, that the "Wanderer did not like to make 


any decided answer. Instead of replying, lie asked 
Hamisli if he had never been in the locality before. 

" Ay, once, years, ago, ween I was but a lad. The 
herring were in Loch Scavaig, and the harbor out yon- 
der was just a causeway o' fishing-boats, and there 
were fires on shore, and plenty o' folk to make it look 
cheery like. We were here a week, and didna see a 
soul ashore, but one day an old piper coming in his 
Sabbath claise frae a wedding far o'er the hills, and he 
was that fu' * that he had burstit his pipes, and lost 
his bonnet ; and, with his gray hair blowing in his 
een, he looked like the Deil. We keepit him a nicht 
till he was sober ; and when he waken'd he was that 
mad about his pipes, that he was for loupingf into 
the sea. I mind fine o' him vanishing up the hills 
yonder, as white as death ; and Lord kens if he ever 
reached hame, for it rained that night like to drown 
the world, and you couldna see the length o' your arm 
for reek," ij: 

As he walked on in the track of the Wanderer, 
Shaw still pursued liis own reminiscences aloud. 

"For a' that tliere wasna a fisherman would liae 
willingly come this length alane — -they were that fear'd 
o' the place, most o' a' in the gloaming. It's more 
fearsome without a house, or folk, or sae much as a 
sheep feeding ; nothing but stanes and darkness. 
There were auld men among us that had strange tales 
and liked to fright the lads, though they were just 
as frightit themsel's. There's a cave up there called 
the Cave o' the Ghost, and the taiscli§ o' a shepherd 

* Drunk. f Jumping, I Mist. 

§ Spirit, 


lias been seen in it sitting cross-leggit, and branding 
a bluidy sheep. But the drollest thing e'er I heard 
o' Loch Corruisk was frae an auld pilot o' Dun vegan, 
whose folk had dwelt yonder on the far side o' Gars- 
ven. lie minded fine, when he was a wean, his 
grandfather would gang awa' for days, and come back 
wi' his pouch full o' precious stanes the size o' seeds 
and the color o' blood. lie would tell nae man how 
or where he found them ; and though they tried to 
watch him, he was o'er cunning. More than once he 
came back wi' gold. He sent the gold and stanes 
south, and was weel paid for them. It was whispered 
about that he had sold himseP to the Deil, at night, 
here by the loch ; and he didna deny it. He came 
back one day sick, and took to his bed wi' the influ- 
enza fever ; and he ravit till the priest came, and 
before he dee'd he cried till the priest that the gold 
and stanes had changed his heart wi' greed, and he 
was feared to face his God. One day he had wan- 
dered himsel', * and night came on him, and he creepit 
into a cave to sleep ; and when the day came, he saw 
strange marks like writing all o'er the walls. When 
he keekit closer, he saw the stanes, and they were 
that loose he could free them wi' his gully,f and he 
tilled his pouches, shaking a' the time wi' fear. But 
the strangest thing o' a' was this — he wasna the first 
man that had been there, for at the mouth o' the cave 
there was the coulter o' a plow, and twa old brogues 
rotten wi' dirt and rain." 

" Did this description enable his relations to find 
the place ? " asked the Wanderer, much interested. 

* Lost his patli. f Claspknife. 



" Tliej searcli'd and searcli'd," answered Hamish, 
"but they coiildna found it, and they gave it up in 
despair. After that his folk didna thrive ; and the 
man that told me the tale was the only ane o' them 
left. I've heard tell that 'twas true the old man had 
sold himsel' to the Deil, and that the cave, and the 
strange writing, and a' that, were just magic to beguile 
his een ; but it's strange. I'm o' the opinion that the 
cave might be found yet, for gold and stanes couldna 
come o' naething. If it hadna been for the auld man's 
greed, his folk might hae thriven." 

" Do you think you would have kept the secret if 
you had been in his place ? " 

" I'm no' sae sure," answered Hamish, after a pause. 
" Ye see, 'twas a sair temptation, for a man's ain folk 
are whiles the hardest against him aboot siller. It 
was the safest way, but a bad way for ither folk. He 
should hae put the marks o' the place in ^vriting, for 
use after his death." 

Hamish's story, with its quaint touches of realism, 
only made the lonely scene more lone, adding as it 
did a touch of human eerieness to the associations 
connected with it. An appropriate abode, surely, for 
one of those evil spirits of whom we read in Teutonic 
romance, and who were prepared, in exchange for a 
little document signed with the party's blood, to load 
the lost mortal with gems and gold! This was a 
fleeting imprcssicn, only lasting a moment. Another 
glance at those dimly-lighted walls, that darkly-brood- 
ing water, those sublime peaks, now begiiming to dis- 
appear in the fast-gathering white vapor — one more 
look around the lonely corry — served to show that it 


was too silent, too ethereally thoughtful, to be haunted 
by such vulgar spirits as those that figure in popular 
superstition. The popular ghost would be as out of 
place there as inside a church. To break for a moment 
the dead monotony, the Wanderer cast a stone into 
the water, and Schneider, barking furiously, plunged 
into the water. Hark ! a thousand voices barked an 
answer ! We shouted aloud, and the hills reverber- 
ated. The cries of men and the barking of dogs faded 
far off, like the ghostly voices of the Wild Huntsmen 
among the Harz Mountains. Echo cried to echo ; 

" As multitudinous a harmony 
Of sounds as rang the heights of Latmos over. 
When, from the soft couch of her sleeping lover 
Upstarting, Cynthia skimmed the mountain dew 
In keen pursuit, and gave where'er she flew 
Impetuous motion to the stars above her ! " 

Truly, there were spirits among the peaks, but not 
such spirits as Defoe chronicled, and the Poughkeepsie 
Seer summons ; nay, gentle ghosts, " with eyes as fair 
as starbeams among twilight trees ; " phantoms of the 
delicate ether, not arrayed in vulgar horrors, but soft 
as the breath of Cytherea. 

" Mountain winds, and babbling springs, 
• And mountain seas that are the voice 

Of these inexplicable things ! " 

The home of mystery is far removed from that of ter- 
ror, and he who approaches it, as we did then, is held 
by the tenderest fibers of his soul, instead of being 
galvanized into gaping abjection. God's profoundest 
agents are as tender as they are powerful. Their 
breath, invisible as the wind, troubles the fount of 
divine tears which distills itself, drop by drop, in 


every human thing, however strong, however dark 
and cold. 

We were now at the head of the loch. Sir Walter 
Scott, in the notes of his visit to Skye, describes the 
Cuchullins as rising " so perpendicularly from the 
water's edge that Borrowdale, or even Glencoe, is a 
jest to them ; " but Sir AValter only surveyed the 
scene from the far end of the corry, where it opens on 
the sea.* So far from rising perpendicular from the 

* Sir Walter's prose account of his visit to Corruisk is so inter- 
esting that we subjoin it in full : " The ground on which we 
walked was the margin of a lake, which seemed to have sustained 
the constant ravage of torrents from these rude neighbors. The 
shores consisted of huge strata of naked granite, here and there 
intermixed with bogs, and heaps of gravel and sand piled in the 
empty water-courses. Vegetation there was little or none ; and 
the mountains rose so perpendicularly from the water edge that 
Borrowdale, or even Glencoe, is a jest to them. We proceeded a 
mile and a half up this deep, dark, and solitary lake, which was 
about two miles long, half a mile broad, and is, as we learned, 
of extreme depth. The murky vapors which enveloped the 
mountain ridges obliged us by assuming a thousand varied shapes, 
changing their drapery into all sorts of fcrms, and sometimes 
clearing off altogether. It is true, the mist made us pay the 
penalty by some heavy and downriglit showers, from the fre- 
quency of which a Highland boy, whom we brought from the 
farm, told us the lake was popularly called the Water-kettle. 
The proper name is Loch Corriskin, from the deep corrie, of 
hollow, in the mountains of Cuilin, which affords the basin for 
this wonderful sheet of water. It is as exquisite a savage scene 
as Locli Katrine is a scene of romantic beauty. After liaving 
penetrated so far as distinctly to observe the termination of the 
lake under an immense j)recipice, which rises abruptly from the 
water, Ave returned, and often stopped to admire the ravages 
which storms must have made in the recesses, where all human 
witnesses were driven to places of more shelter and security. 
Stones, or rather large masses and fragments of rocks, of a com- 


water's edge, the mountains slope gradually upward, 
from stony layer to layer, and at their l)ase is a plain 
of grass as green as emerald, through which a small 
river, after draining the silent dews of the hills, wan- 
ders to Corruisk. Where we stood, surrounded by 
the colossal fragments of ruin, on the rough rock of 
the solid liillside, the darkness deepened, Yapors 
were gathering above ns, shutting out the hill-tops 
from our gaze. Out of every fissure and crevasse, 
from behind every fragment of stone, a white shape of 
mist stole, small or huge, and hovered like a living 

posite kind, perfectly dififerent from the strata of the lake, were 
scattered upon the bare, rocky beach in the strangest and most 
precarious situations, as if abandoned by the torrents which had 
borne them down from above. Some lay loose and tottering 
upon the ledges of the natural rock, with so little security 
that the slightest push moved them, though their weight might 
exceed many tons. These detached rocks, or stones, were 
chiefly what are called plum-pudding stones. The bare rocks, 
which formed the shore of the lake, seemed quite pathless and 
inaccessible, as a huge mountain, one of the detached ridges of 
the Ciiilin hills, sinks in a profound and perpendicular precipice 
down to the water. On the left-hand side, which we traversed, 
rose a higher and equally inaccessible mountain, the top of which 
strongly resembled the shivered crata of an exhausted volcano. 
I never saw a spot in which there was less appearance of vege- 
tation of any kind. The eye rested on nothing but barren and 
naked crags, and the rocks on which we walked by the side 
of the loch were as bare as the pavements of Cheapside. There 
are one or two small islets in the loch, which seem to bear 
j uniper, or some such low, bushy shrub. Upon the whole, though 
I have seen many scenes of more extensive desolation, I never 
witnessed any in which it pressed me more deeply upon the eye 
and the heart than at Loch Corriskiu ; at the same time that its 
grandeur elevated and redeemed it from the wild and dreary 
character of utter barrenness." 


thing. The invisible sun was now declining to the 
west, and the air growing chilly after the great heat 
of the day. 

It was time now to seek a comer wherein we might 
pass the night in tolerable comfort. This was soon 
done. One huge stone stretched out its top like a roof, 
the rock beneath was dry and snug, and close at hand 
a little stream bubbled by, crystalline and cold. 
" Spread out the rugs, Hamish Shaw, light the spirit- 
lamp, and make all snug." It was as cosy as by the 
forecastle fire. Cold beef and bread went down glo- 
riously, with cold caulkers from the spring ; but we 
wound up, if you please, with a jorum of toddy as 
stiif as head could stand. Heat the water over the 
spirit-lamp, drop in the sugar, and you have a bever- 
age fit for the gods. You, Hamish, take yours neat, 
and you are wise. Now, having lit our pipes, and 
stretched ourselves out for a siesta, do we envy the 
ease of any wight in Christendom ? 

" The nicht will be a good nicht," said Hamish ; 
" but I'm thinking there'll be wind the mom,* and 
here, when it blows it rains. "When I was here wi' 
the Ileathcrhell, at the time I was speaking o', I dinna 
mind o' a dry day — a day without showers. I ne'er 
saw the hills as clear as they were this forenoon. 
There's aye wind among the gullies yonder, and the 
squalls at Sligachan are nacthing to what ye haehere. 
I wouldna sail aboot Scavaig in a lug-sail skiff— no' 
if I had the sheet in my hand, and the sail nae 
bigger than a clout — in the finest day in summer. It 

* i. e., To-morrow morning. 


strikes down on ye like the blows o' a hammer — riglit, 
left, ahint, before, straight down on your head, riglit 
np under your nose — coming from Lord kens where, 
though the sea be smooth as my cheek. I've seen the 
punt heeling o'er to the gunnel with neither mast nor 
sail. I mind o' seeing a brig carry away her topmast, 
and tear her foresail like a rag, on a day when we 
would hae been carrying just a reef in the mainsail 
o' the Tern / and I've seen the day when the fishing- 
boats running out o' the wee harbor there would be tak- 
ing their sails on and off, as the puffs came, twenty 
times in as many minutes. Many's the life's been lost 
off Skye wi' the damned wind frae these hills. They're 
for nae good to the beasts — the very deer are starved 
in them — and they catch every mist frae the Western 
Ocean, and soock the wind out o' its belly, and shoot 
it out again on Scavaig like a cannon-ball. Is it no' 
strange there should be such places, for nae use to 
man ?" 

" They are very beautiful to look at, Shaw," ob- 
served tlie Wanderer, " you can't deny that ; and 
beautiful things have a use of their own, you know. 
Look up there, where the mists are dividing, and 
burnmg red round the edges of that peak, and tell me 
if you ever saw anything more splendid." 

" I'll no' deny," says Shaw, glancing up with little 
enthusiasm, " I'U no' deny that it looks awesome ; and 
it's hard for a common man like me to tell the taste o' 
learned men and gentry. They gang snooving aboot, 
and see bonnieness where the folk o' the place see 
naething but ugliness. But put it to yoursel'. Just 
supposing you had a twin brother, and your father 


had left your brother a green farm o' five hundred 
acres, and gien this place for a birthright to yoursel', 
what would ye hae said then? There's no' an 
acre o' green gr«BS, nor a tree where a bird might 
build, nor a hanfu' o' earth to plow or harrow ! Ye're 
smiling, but ye wouldna smile if ye depended on this 
place for your drop o' milk and bit o' porridge. This 
may be awesome ; but green, long grass, and trees, 
and the kye crying, and the birds singing, and the 
smell o' the farm-yard wherever you keek, that's the 
kind o' place for a man to spend his days in." 

And here let us remark that the grim, sunburnt, 
hirsute Celt — our philosophic Ilamish, as independent 
as Socrates of schools and dogmas — was right enough, 
with all his bigotry. Corruisk is well at times, but it 
lacks the greenness of the true, living world — and the 
intellectual mood it awakens is a purely cultivated 
mood, impossible to man in his natural state. The 
English gentleman, arriving from* Kent or Sussex, 
Uase with English flats, surfeited of harvests, comes 
to such a scene as this to be galvanized ; and the wild, 
weird i^rospect, the utter silence and desolation, speak 
to him with intensest spiritual power, because they 
are so unlike the monotonous paths he treads daily. 
The Celt, on the other hand, who is from boyhood 
familiar with the waste wilderness, tenanted only by 
the deer and the eagle, and with the enormous sheep- 
farm, stretching from hill to hill, comes upon a green 
spot, where leaves sprout, and birds sing, and flowers 
bud at the tree-roots, and at once realizes his dreams 
of earthly loveliness. Unlike tlie fair-weather tourist, 
who surveys the terrors of Nature for one inspired 


moment, the Iliglilandcr knows the meaning of storm, 
cold, poverty, and hmiger ; and when he pictures an 
Inferno, it is not one of in8uiFeral)lo flame, but rather 
Dante's last circle — a frozen realm.** What wonder, 
then, that such a man should find all the dreamy 
poetry of his nature awakened by the happy home- 
stead bosomed in greenness, the waving fields of ha;*- 
vest hard by, the pleasant country road, with plump 
farm-women driving their pony-carts to market, the 
stream that waters the meadow-land and turns the 
mill — all the sights and sounds that indicate warmth, 
prosperity and rural joy. The basis of all heavens is 
physical comfort, and the Celt's dream of heaven is a 
dream of the light and the sunshine he seldom sees. 
" The valleys," says an old Gaelic chant, " were open 
and free to the ocean ; trees loaded with leaves, which 
scarce moved to the light breeze, were scattered on 
the green slopes and rising grounds. The rude winds 
walked, not on the mountains; no storm took its 
course through the sky. All was calm and bright ; 
the pure sun of the autumn shone from its blue sky 
on the fields." We have wandered among the islands 
with all sorts of islanders, and ever found them moved 
most, like Hamish Shaw, by the tender oases of cul- 
tivated ground which are found here and there in the 
empty waste. 

Let it not be imagined, however, that the wild 
scenery of the hills wherein they dwell, the fierce con- 
tentions of wind and rain and snow, exercise no fas- / 
cination; they work subtly, secretly, weaving theu' 

* The Celtic Jfurin, or tlie Isle of the Cold Clime. 


Bolemn tints into the very tissue of life itself, solemn- 
izing thought imperceptibly, troubling the spirit with 
mysterious emotion. More than most men the Celt 
distinguishes between loving and liking. He likes 
the green pasture ; but he loves the bare mountains. 
He likes warmth, comfort, and prosperity; but he 
loves loneliness, dreaminess, and home. So familiar 
is he with the mountain peak and the driving mist, 
so constant is their influence upon him, that he scarce- 
ly perceives them ; yet, transport him to flat lowlands, 
or into cities, and he pines for the desolate lake and 
the silent hillside. His love for them is unutterable, 
is the vital part of his existence. "When he dreams, 
he sees \hefata morgana^ a cloud of delicious verdure 
suspended in the air ; but it soon fades. He, like all 
men, yearns to the unknown and the unfamiliar ; but 
such yearnings are not love. 

So far as Hamish himself is concerned, what most 
moves him is the sea. It is his true home, and he 
loves it in all its moods. Days and nights, months 
and years, it has rocked him on its bosom. He does 
not watch it with an artist's eye ; but no artist could 
linger over its looks more lovingly. It is no mere 
monster, repelling him like the somber Cuchullins. 
No ; the mighty sea means health and life — the won- 
di'ous shoals of herring peopling the waters like lo- 
custs, the cod and ling hovering like shadows on the 
silent, deej) seabank — the lobster in the tangled weed — 
all strange gifts from God, full of " use to man." 
He has a finer eye for the beauty of a boat than any 
artist ever drew. He knows the clouds as the shep- 
herds know their sheep. The voices of seabirds are 


a speecli to liim. As lie looks on the wondrous wa- 
tery lields, he sees in them both a harvest and a grave. 
The shadow of mystery and death dwells everywhere 
on the perilous prospect. And if, with such dreamy 
imaginations, he unconsciously blends the same quiet, 
utilitarian feeling which the farmer has for his fields, 
and the huntsman for the prairie, why, perhaps it has 
only strengthened the emotions of joy he feels when- 
ever he finds himself " at home " on the great waters. 
After all, the solemn eerieness of the corry must 
have been appealing more or less subtly to Ilamish's 
spirit, for erelong his chat drifted into the old chan- 
nel of superstition ; and as the rosy light of the sun 
grew dimmer on the peaks, and the hollow void black- 
ened below, he now and then cast around him glances 
of troubled meaning. He talked again, as he has 
often talked before, of the Banshee, and the Taisch 
or second sight, and of witches and fays ; not commit- 
mg himself to believe in their existence, but assuredly 
not quite unbelieving. While Hamish soliloquized the 
Wanderer watched the dying sunlight, and dreamed 
— until the sound of his comrade's voice died awav 
into an inarticulate murmur. It was such a scene as 
no tongue can describe, no pencil paint — the hills in 
their silentest hour, hushed like lambs around the feet 
of God. Not of wraiths, or corpse-lights, or any petty 
< spirits that fret the common course of man, did the 
Wanderer think now ; no dark vapors of the brain 
interposed to perplex him ; but his soul turned, trem- 
bling like a star with its own lustrous yearning, to the 
Eternal Silences where broods the Almighty Father 
of the beautiful and wondrous world. In that mo- 


ment, in tliat mood, without perfect religious confi- 
dence, yet witli some faint feeling of awful communi- 
cation with the unseen Intelligence, did he find his 
prayer shaping itself into sound and form — faint, 
perhaps, as imaging what he felt, yet in some measure 
consecrated for other ears by the holy spirit of the 


Desolate 1 How the peaka of ashen gray. 

The smoky mists that drift from hill to hill. 
The waters dark, anticipate this day 

Death's sullen desolation. Oh, how still 

The shadows come and vanish, with no will I 
How still the melancholy waters lie ; 
How still the vapors of the under sky. 

Mirrored below, drift onward, and fulfill 
The mandate as they mingle ! Not a sound, 

Save that deep murmur of a torrent near, 
Breaketh the silence. Hush ! the dark profound 

Groans, as some gray crag loosens and falls sheer 
To the abyss. Wildly I look around. 

O Spirit of the Human, art Thou liere t 


O Thou art beautiful ! and Thou dost bestow 
Thy beauty on this stillness. Still as sheep 
The hills lie under Thee ; the waters deep 

Murmur for joy of Thee ; the voids below 

Mirror Thy strange fair vapors as they flow ; 
And now, afar upon the ashen height. 
Thou sendest down a radiant look of light. 

So that the still peaks glisten, and a glow, 

Rose-colored, tints the little, snowy cloud 
Tliat poises on the highest peak of all. 

O Thou art beautiful ! — the hills are bowed 

Beneath Thee ; on Thy name the soft winds call — 

The monstrous ocean trumpets it aloud. 
The rain and snows intone it as they fall. 



Here by the sunless lake there is no air ; 

Yet with how ceaseless motion, with how strange 

Flowing and fading, do the high mists range 
The gloomy gorges of the mountains bare. 
Some weary breathing never ceases there — 

The ashen peaks can feel it hour by hour ; 

The purple depths are darkened by its power ; 
A soundless breath, a trouble all things share 
That feel it come and go. See I onward swim 

The ghostly mists, from silent land to land. 
From gulf to gulf ; now the whole air grows dim — 

Like living men, darkling a space, they stand. 
But lo ! a sunbeam, like a cherubim. 

Scatters them onward like a flaming brand 


I think this is the very stillest place 

On all God's earth, and yet no rest is here. 
The vapors mirrored in the black loch's face 

Drift on like frantic shapes and disappear ; 

A never-ceasing murmur in mine ear 
Tells me of waters wild that flow. 

There is no rest at all afar or near 
Only a sense of things that moan and go. 
And lo ! the still small life these limbs contain 

I feel flows on like those, restless and proud ; 
Before that breathing naught within my brain 

Pauses, but all drifts on like mist and cloud ; 
Only the bald peaks and the stones remain. 

Frozen before Thee, desolate and bowed. 

And whither, O ye vapors, do ye wend ? 

Stirred by that weary breathing, whither away ? 

And whither, O ye dreams that night and day 
Drift o'er the troublous life, tremble, and blend 
To broken lineaments of that far Friend, 

Whose strange breath's come and go ye feel so deep ? 


O soul that has no rest and seekest sleep, 
WTiither ? and will thy wanderings ever end ? 
All things tliat be are full of a quick pain ; 

Onward we fleet, swift as the running rill ; 
The vapors drift, the mists within the brain 

Float on obscuringly, and have no will ; 
Only the bare peaks and tlie stones remain ; 

These only — and a God, sublime and still.* 

The light died off the peaks, the vapors darkened, 
and the cold chill of the night crept into the air. 
Then suddenly, without a ray of warning, the moon 
swept up out of the east — huge as a shield, yellow as 
a water-lily, more luminous than any gold. It want- 
ed but the moon to complete the spell. The dim 
light scarcely penetrated into the corry, save where 
a deep streak of silver shadow broke the blackness of 
the lake. The walls of the hollow grew pitch dark, 
though the peaks were faintly lit. The vapors gath- 
ered in the hollow interstices of gloom. Kow, where 
all had been stillness, mysterious noises grew — wild 
voices, whispers, murmurs, infinite ululations. 

" Vero e, che' n su la proda mi trovai 
Delia valle d'abisso dolorosa, 
Che tuono accoglie d'infiniti guai ! " 

The moan of tori'ents was audible, the mm'mur of 

It is not our purpose to chronicle in detail the ex- 
periences of the night. Suffice it to say that for 
many a long hour we paced about the ghostly scene, 
and then, worn out and wearied, slipt ourselves into 

* These sonnets have already appeared as a portion of " The 
Book of Orm : a Prelude to the Epic." 


onr covei-ings, and slept as 8mip;ly as worms in their 
cocoons nndcr the overlianging eaves of the mighty 
rock. Py this time tlie yellow moon, after burning 
her way through the gathering vapors and reddening 
to crimson fire at the edges, had disappeared altogetlier, 
taking with her all the stars; but the summer night 
still preserved a dim, dreary light in the very heart of 
shadows. How long tlie Wanderer first slept he 
knows not, but he awakened with a wild start, and 
found all the vials of heaven opening and pouring 
down on his devoted head. The darkness was full of 
a dull roar — the splashing of the heavy drops on solid 
stone, the moan of wind, the cry of torrents. " As a 
hundred hills on Morven ; as the streams of a hundred 
hills ; as clouds fly successive over heaven ; or as the 
dai'k ocean assaults the shore of the desert ; so roaring, 
so vast, so terrible, the armies mixed on Lena's echo- 
ins: heath."* 

* Or, fis translated more literally by tlie Eev. Mr. Macpherson, 
of Inveraray : 

" As a hundred winds in the oak of Morven ; 
As a hundred streams from the steep-sided mountain ; 
As clouds gathering thick and black ; 
As the great ocean pouring on the shore. 
So broad, roaring, dark, and fierce. 
Met the braves a-fire, on Lena. 

The shout of the hosts on the bones of the mountains 
Was a torrent in a night of storm 
When bursts the clouds on gloomy Cona, 
And a thousand ghosts are shrieking loud 
On the viewless crooked wind of the cairns." 

OssiAjf's Poems. Fingal, book iii. 


The Cucliullins were busy again at tlieir old pastime 
of storm-brewing. It became expedient to draw 
closer under the shelter of the boulder out of the 
reach of the buckets of water dripping over tlie eaves. 
This done, the AVanderer listened drowsily for a time 
to the wild sounds around him, and then, soothed by 
their monotony, slept again. Happy is the man who 
can sleep anywhere, on shipboard, in the saddle, up a 
tree, on the top of Ben Kevis, and under all circum- 
stances, in all weathers. Something of this virtue had 
been imparted to the "Wanderer by his wild life afloat ; 
and he still carried the drowsy spell of the sea with 
him, mesmerizing body and mind to slumber any- 
where at a moment's notice. 

"When he opened his eyes again, and with bodily 
sensations akin to those of a parboiled lobster gazed 
around him, it was daylight — a dim, doubtful, rainy 
light, but still the light of day. The corry was one 
mass of gray vapor, hiding everything to the utmost 
peaks, and a thin " smm-r" of rain filled all the doubt- 
ful air above the loch. Hamish Shaw, wreathed up 
in the shape of the letter S, was breathing stento- 
riously. and to awaken him the "Wanderer tickled his 
nose with a spike of heather ; whereat he opened 
his eyes, smiled grimly, and at once, without a mo- 
ment's hesitation, with all the quickness of instinct, 
delivered his criticism on the weather. " There'll be 
rain the day, and a breeze ; the wind's awa' into the 
southwest." Then, without more preamble, he jumped 
up, rubbed his hands through his matted hair, and 
surveyed the scene about him. 


" The sun had opened golden yellow 

From his cas(i. 
Though still the sky wore dark and drumly 

A scarred and frowning face ; 
Then troubled, tawny, dense, dun-bellied. 

Scowling, and sea-blue ; 
Every dye that's in the tartan 

O'er it grew. 
Far away to the wild westward 

Grim it lowered, 
Wliere rain-charged clouds on thick squalls wandering 

Loomed and towered." * 

With a grim shake of the head, Ilamish got out 
spirit-lamp, kitchener, etc., and proceeded to make 
breakfast. Meantime, the Wanderer threaded his 
way to the water's edge, and divesting himself of his 
hot, uncomfortable clothing, plunged in for a swim. 
A dozen strokes were enough ; for the black deeps 
filled one with an eerie shudder, and the vapors hung 
cold and dreadful overhead. Dripping like a naiad, 
the Wanderer got into his clothes, and rushed about 
wildly to restore the circulation. A quarter of an 
hour afterward, he breakfasted royally on bread and 
cold meat, with a tumbler of spirits and water — in 
all of which he was gladly joined by the faithful 
Hamish. Breakfast over, the twain made their de- 
vious way down the corry, pausing ever and anon to 
contemplate the stormy scene behind them. 

A high wind in sharp squalls was blowing mist and 
cloud from the sea ; steadily and swiftly the vapor 
drifted along, %vith interstices dimly luminous, from 
the southwest ; but directly they reached the unseen 

* The " Birlinn." By Alastair Mac Mhaigstair Alastair. 


lieiglits, tlicy seemed to pause altogether, and add to 
tlie motionless darkness. Below that darkness a gray 
reflected light — not light, but rather darkness visible — 
moved along the precipices of stone, save vrhere 
mists streamed from the abyss, or the silver threads 
of cataracts flashed, 

" Motionless as ice. 
Frozen by distance." 

Wild, unearthly noises, strange as the shriek of the 
water-kelpie, issued from the abysse§. The black 
lake was broken into small, sharp waves, crested with 
foam of dazzling whiteness, contrasted with which 
the black furrows between seemed blacker and blacker ; 
and over the waves here and there the gulls were 
screaming. The mighty rocks through which we 
wended diffused into the air a cold, white steam, while, 
smitteii by the silver-glistering rain, their furrowed 
cheeks drip wildly ; at the base of each glimmered 
a pool ; and everywhere around them the swollen 
runlets leapt noisily to mingle with the mere. The 
corry, indeed, was silent no more; but the only 
sound within it was the murmur of its own weeping. 
As we walked onward, looming gray in the mist, 
we suddenly became conscious of a iigure standing at 
some little distance from us — the wild figure of a man 
clad in pilot trousers and a yellow oilskin coat, bare- 
headed, his matted locks hanging over his shoulders, 
his beard dripping with rain, his eyes with a look of 
frenzy glaring at us as we approached. Our first 
impulse was one of fear — there was something un- 
eailhly in this apparition ; but we advanced rapidly, 


anxious to examine it more closely. To our astonish- 
ment the man, instead of inviting scrutiny, assumed 
a look of intense terror, and without a word of warn- 
ing took to his heels. Anxious to reassure him, we 
followed as rapidly as possible, Ilamish shouting 
loudly in Gaelic; but the sound of footsteps behind 
liiii and Ilamish's voice, which the wind turned to a 
dismal moan, only made the man fly faster, never 
once casting a look backward, but scrambling along 
the perilous slopes as if all the fiends were at his 
heels, until the rainy mist blotted him altogether 
from our view. Hamish and the Wanderer looked at 
each other and laughed; it was rather a comical 
situation — man-chasing in the gorges of Corruisk. 

" "Who do you think he is ?" said the Wanderer ; 
" a man like ourselves, or a ghost ?" 

" Flesh and blood, sure enough," replied Ilamish, 
with a sly twinkle in his eye. " I'm tliinking there 
will be a boat o' some sort down in the harbor yon- 
der, and this is one of the crew. Eh ! but he seemed 
awfu' scared; nae doubt he thought us something 
uncanny, coming on him sae sudden in a place like 

Wet and dripping, we reach the lower end of 
the loch, and after one glance backward at the 
corry, which seems buried in the deepest gloom of 
night, follow the course of the river, which runs 
foamino; over a sheet of smooth rock into Loch 
Scavaig, that wonderful arm of the sea. The rocks 
here have the smoothed and swelling forms known 
as roches vxcndonnees , and, as Professor Forbes ob- 
serves, " it would be quite impossible to find in the 


Alps or elsewhere these phenomena (excepting oi^ly 
the high polish, which the rocks here do not admit 
of) in greater perfection than in the valley of Cor- 
ruisk." The distance from the fresh-wator loch to 
the salt water is little more than two hundred yards ; 
and where the river joins the latter there is a dead- 
calm basin, enclosed seaward by promontories and 
islands, and perpetually sheltered from all the 
winds that blow. There is no snugger anchorage 
in the world than this. Shut in on every side by 
precipices that tower far above the mast, with no 
view but the bare loch landward or seaward, it is 
like a small mere, deep and green, in the hollow of 
the mountains. In the rocks at either side there 
are rings, to which any vessel at anchor in the basin 
may attach itself ; for, though the place is sheltered 
from the full force of the wind, the squalls are terrific- 
ally sharp, and a warp is necessary, as there is no 
room to " swing." 

And here, standing on the rock at the water's 
edge, we saw a small group of men, five in numl)er, 
chief of whom was the fugitive from Corruisk. The 
latter, with excited gestures and flaming eyes, pointed 
to us as we approached, and all eyed us in grim and 
ominous silence. Fastened to the rock on which 
they stood was a skiff, one of those huge, shapeless 
fishing skiffs in which Highlanders delight, black 
and slimy with seaweed, with red nets heaped in 
the bottom, and a dog-fish — seemingly the only prod- 
uce of a night's fishing — still gasj^ng, with his 
liver cut out, in the bow. No sooner did Shaw get 
within earshot than he attacked the strangers with a 


sharp fire in Gaelic. After listening staggered for 
a moment, tliey opened on him like a pack of 
hounds in full cry ; and it was soon apparent that 
the man we had met hy the loch had taken us for a 
couple of ghosts prowling about in the dim, myste- 
rious light of the early morning. The men were 
fishers from Loch Slapin, whither they were on the 
point of returning ; and we proposed that they should 
row us round by the sea to Camasunary, nine miles' 
■walk through the great glen from Sligachan Inn. A 
bargain being struck, we were soon dancing on the 
wild waters of Loch Scavaig, and taking our farewell 
view of the Cuchullins. 

Landing at Camasunary, we plodded weary home- 
ward, so full of wonders, so awed and abstracted with 
all we had seen, that we scarcely looked at the wild 
gorges through which we passed. The brain was 
quite full, and could receive no more. Tired to 
death, we at last reached the Tetm^ after a walk that 
seemed interminable. For many days after that it was 
impossible to recollect in detail any picture we had 
seen. All was confusion — darkness, rain, mist. 
When the vision cleared, and the perfect memory 
of CoiTuisk arose in the mind, it seemed only a vivid 
dream, strange and beautiful beyond all pictures seen 
with the waking eyes, a reminiscence from some for- 
gotten life, a vision to be blent forever with the most 
secret apprehensions of the soul — sleep, death, obliv- 
ion, eternity, and the grave. 




It was now growing late in the year, and we were 
yearning to return again to the moors of Lome. 
Quitting Loch Sligachan, we ran through the Sound 
of Scalpa, past Broad ford Bay and Pabbay Island, 
through the narrow passage of Kyle Akin, and so on 
through KyleEheato Isle Ornsay, where we anchored. 
Page after page might be filled \\'ith tlie exquisite pic- 
tures seen on the way througli these island channels. 
At Isle Ornsay we were detained for nearly a fort- 
night by a fearful gale of wind, and occui^ied the time 
in fishing for " cuddies " over the vessel's side, rowing 
about in the punt, and reading Bjurnson's great vik- 
ing-drama in the tiny cabin. Beguiled by a treacher- 
ous peep of fine weather, we slipt out into the Sound 
of Sleat, intending to sail roimd Ardnamurchan ; but 
the heavy sea soon compelled us to take shelter in 
Loch Xevis. After spending a black day at the last- 
named anchorage, we set sail again, and encountered 
a nasty wind from the southwest. The little Tern 
got as severe a bufi:eting on that occasion as a craft of 
the sort could well weather ; and only by the skilled 


Beamansbip of Ilamish Shaw did we manao;e to reach 
our old anchorage in Rum before the gale burst in all 
its fury. The weather was now thoroughly broken. 
"We were detained several days in Loch Scresort, fear- 
ing to face the great seas of the Atlantic in passing 
round the Rhu. A good day came at last. "VVe had 
as pleasant a sail through the oj)en sea as could well 
be desired. On the night of the following day the 
Tern was at her moorings in Oban Bay, and we en- 
joyed, for the first time after many months, the lux- 
ury of a snug bed ashore, in the White House on the 

Never had the seasons been more delightfully spent. 
We had enjoyed sport and adventure to the full, we 
had drunk into our veins the fresh sense of renewed 
physical life, and we had enriched the soul with a set 
of picturesque memories of inestimable brightness and 
beauty. Possibly no such novel experience could 
have been gained by rambling half round the civilized 
world in search of the beautiful. " How little do men 
know," we repeated, " of the wonders lying at their 
own thresholds ! " Within two days' journey of the 
Great City lie these Hebrides, comparatively unknown, 
yet abounding in shapes of beauty and forms of life as 
fresh and new as those met with in the remotest is- 
lands of the Pacific. To the patient reader of our 
travels afloat and ashore we have only one advice to 
give in conclusion : " Go and do likewise ; and, until 
you have explored the isles of the north in such a ves- 
sel as carried us so bravely and for so long, do not 
think that you have exhausted travel, or that Provi- 


dence, even in the narrow limits of these British 
Islands of which you know so little, cannot supply 
your jaded humanity with a new sensation ! " 



J -9 ^.f 


Santa Barbara 


Series 9482 


000 271"-'-" '"""""" 

I ^